Recently, Mountain Equipment Co-op became the first Canadian company to publicly disclose the identity and address of their supplier factories around the world. Here is their list. Harvey Chan, the Director of global sourcing at MEC once told me that this initiative can be traced directly to the embarrassment the company experienced when Toronto-based NGO the Maquila Solidarity Network ‘awarded’ MEC the “Fence-Sitter of the Year Award” in its annual mock awards of leading sweatshop retailers. That designation was intended to make the point that MEC claims to be socially responsible, while refusing to provide any useful information about what it does to ensure labour practices are decent in its supply chain.
MEC’s disclosure follows on the heals of other companies who have done the same, including Nike, Levis, Timberland, and Adidas. You can see a list of companies that disclose and their lists at this site. I have argued in a number of articles that mandatory, regulated factory disclosure could lead to improvements in labour practices within global supply chains. The reasons why have much to do with the ways in which corporations manage risk. As MEC admitted, it initially balked at disclosing its factory list because it feared that unions, NGOs, and others might use the information to publicly embarrass the company if labour abuses were uncovered at one of the factories. That is a real risk, particularly if organizations learn to use this information strategically. I have argued that the ways that the corporations manage this risk can actually improve the environment for labour practices. So far, my case studies have focused on Nike and Levis. But as more companies ‘voluntarily’ disclose their supplier lists, the scope of research subjects expands.
If your interested, you can see some of my article by following this link.
My next project will involve asking the Hudson’s Bay Company to provide me with the precise factory that made my Olympic apparel. Do you think they will tell me? Why or why not? If HBC will share this information with me, I will attempt to speak with workers at the factory about their labour conditions. If they won’t tell me, then I will attempt to locate the factory myself through investigative techniques to show how easy or hard it is to track factories. If you think you can help me with that sort of search, let me know.