What hope for "Ethical" Trade in the Globalised Garment Industry?
In the autumn of 1999 a major UK garment retailer joined the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), just as the media were announcing the loss of thousands of jobs in their UK factories. Joining the ETI means a commitment to the promotion of labour standards as embodied in ILO Conventions.
Yet jobs of British workers are rapidly being lost to countries in Asia and Eastern Europe where companies know that people are employed in conditions far below these standards. The apparent contradiction is overcome by the fact that this commitment is expressed in terms of the progressive implementation of a code of conduct rather than an immediate guarantee of acceptable standards. However in the case of the garment industry the implications of global restructuring are such that the hope of achieving this objective seems increasingly remote.