Producers are paid a living wage, work in safe conditions and are treated respectfully regardless of geographical location.
Regardless of geographic location or local laws and regulations, all workers deserve to be treated with dignity, afforded safe conditions and to be paid a wage that supports a decent and healthy lifestyle. Supporting brands that run contrary to this belief system in effect gives them license to continue to treat workers unfairly: atrocious safety conditions, wages that often fall below government mandated minimums and unpredictable and draconian expectations.
Many companies view wages for third-world workers as a component of their budget – something they can adjust to increase their bottom line. Daniel Vaughan-Whitehead, a senior economist at the International Labour Office, says suppliers “have the tendency to treat wages as the adjustment variable at the end of the chain, once they have paid other production costs.” For consumers who believe in the dignity of human life, this is non-negotiable. Brands must treat humans, regardless of location, fairly, ethically and equitably.
The benefit to workers of fair wages and safe conditions is obvious. Workers are able to support healthy and thriving families and weather the storms that are inevitable in life without entering full blown crisis mode. Families in third world countries are often forced into desperate situations by seemingly minor situations because their wages simply do not allow for any flexibility. For example: a parent loses a job and suddenly a child must quit school to help bring in more income to support the family or a child gets sick and suddenly to afford the medical bills they are forced into a predatory lending situation that effectively enslaves them for years to come. Having access to fair wages provides a basic but decent, sustainable life.
From a business perspective, there are long term benefits to paying living wages, but in the current consumer climate short term gains are highly prized. When companies make the efforts to invest in their workers, they are met with an obvious ROI in the years to come. Loyal workers, healthier workers who miss fewer days of work, reduced turnover preventing re-training costs, higher productivity and better quality from experienced workers and fewer disciplinary problems.
Shouldn’t the government set a minimum wage? For sure, of course, and in an ideal world that minimum wage would be adequate to support a basic life for a family. However not only are legal minimum wages often wildly below what is considered the poverty line, they are often skirted by powerful companies by forcing workers into (unpaid) overtime, paying them off the books, withholding pay or setting unreasonable productivity expectations tied to wages. When options are severely restricted, sometimes half of what you need is better than none of what you need.
When consumers choose to support the companies that support their workers there is a obvious domino effect: more workers and their families are supported, ethical business get the message (and capital) to continue with their work and unethical companies that exploit workers get the message that their practices must change. Having the information to make the decisions necessary to support transparent supply chains gives consumers the power to stand up for fellow humans around the world.