Australian companies more likely to use sweatshop labor?

One disturbing trend that I have noticed in researching outdoor companies is that, in general, there is clearly less attention to workplace issues and working conditions amongst many of the Australian based companies compared with their counterparts elsewhere, especially in North America.

With almost all outdoor gear now manufactured off shore (check here for a list of those who still do at least some of their production here in Australia or New Zealand/ Aotearoa), very few companies have been able to provide any information about working conditions in their production facilities when approached for reviews. The assumption that has to be made is that they are using factories that either employ poor or even sweatshop type conditions for their workers. It’s strange that a number of them have been puzzled when a request is even made about working conditions.

In contrast, many USA-based companies are able to provide information on both conditions in the factories they use, and external verification of their claims.

It seems that many Australian based outdoor companies have a long way to go when it comes to the ‘flip side’ of the sustainability coin.

Most companies (Australian and overseas based) which are profiled on this site can be found here.

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About Cam Walker

I work with Friends of the Earth, and live in Castlemaine in Central Victoria, Australia. Activist, dad to Tali & Mia, mountain enthusiast, climber & would be telemark skier.
This entry was posted in clothing, non sweat shop labour. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Australian companies more likely to use sweatshop labor?

  1. Mark Riley says:

    Hi Cam,

    This site is a great addition to the anti sweat shop, ethical/sustainable sites, especially for Australian shoppers.

    Could I suggest you give some consideration to promoting on this site & to those interested in such matters (isn’t everyone? we wish!) that with regard to clothing options that you give a plug to Ethical Clothing Australia (ECA) accreditation (in some way). It’s the union/industry system, unique to Aust., with some federal government support, which ensures the company/label and the whole supply chain is meeting the stringent Australian laws for fair wages and conditions. See:
    http://www.ethicalclothingaustralia.org.au/

    Whilst it’s been around for some time (you’ll probably know the old name> No Sweat Shop label), there have been some important changes. I won’t go into them here, but it means that there are now over 50 Australian (not NZ I’m afraid!) clothing companies accredited and they have recently accredited the first 2 footwear companies (one is for safety work boots, which won’t do for trekking but might save a toe or 2).

    Whilst I’d have to agree with your assessment re out door gear and Australian production, it could be good to encourage readers to look out for the ECA label on clothes. I’m not aware of much being made on shore here in Oz. Most of the companies you list are importing most of their garments. So the Co. can say they are Australian, but the labour is invariably from off-shore.

    FairWear is hoping that a PR campaign in the very near future should raise Australian’s awareness of the ECA scheme. Many of us know people are hungry for such ethical assurances and this scheme is doing important aspect of the assessment of this notorious industry.

    We at FairWear continue to target the sweatshop operators in the garment sector (our focus is Australia only!), who often go ‘under the radar’. Readers can check out our current campaign at:
    http://www.uniforms.fairwear.org.au and ‘friend’ us on FaceBook too, to stay in touch: search for us >> Fairwear Campaign.

    I hope your work on this site, might encourage the outdoor/trek industry here in Aust. & NZ to take up an accreditation system which is transparent & creditable. Whilst you give some credit to the Nth American companies, I have to say that many famously, say a lot but don’t actually allow proper scrutiny by an independent assessor/community group.

    Also, ACAN (Australian Corporate Accountability Network) has been established recently to help bring concerned Australians together to build pressure, internationally with similar groups, on multinationals to improve their social responsibility, in addition to the environmental responsibility issues and ensure improved transparency and accountability.

    It might be worth considering getting NZ and Aust. to work on an a joint accreditation scheme for outdoor/trek gear similar to the ECA one. What do others think?

    It’s probably time that the ECA scheme looked to becoming the ECA-NZ label!!

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