Monday, June 9, 2008

The China Price on BBC's Radio 4

One of the things I keep thinking about is that what is happening in China's factories is a reflection of our shopping habits in the West. In a big chain store in London this morning, I saw three simple tank tops for £10. I don't have any inside information on how those shirts were made, but it did give me pause: could they really have been made under the kind of conditions that would make me feel good about my purchase? What kind of information do I, as a consumer, really have about how those shirts were made? The answer is: I have to trust the company that is selling them to me. Sure, we trust companies to tell us the truth about a lot of stuff: we trust them to tell us the truth about the way they use investor funds, to be honest in their accounting, etc. But there is a standardized framework, and several layers of regulatory bodies, to hold them to account if they lie to us or take unethical shortcuts. There is no such regulatory framework to hold them to their promises on social and environmental compliance. Listen to my BBC Radio 4 appearance here.

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