In year 8 geography lessons earlier this year, we learnt about globalisation (increasing links between different countries). We learnt about how our clothes, toys, gadgets etc. are made all over the world. After this, we started to learn about where Nike designs and manufactures their products. We watched videos about what they did and we found out that the materials get shipped from one country to another. They then use the materials to manufacture the clothes and then export them all over the world.
We saw that the workers often get paid very little each week, although it was just enough to buy some food. We also saw how they lived, which was in very bad conditions. They only had one toilet break and had to share bathrooms with a lot of people. They often had to live in a shack with 5 or 6 people they might not know. Once we learnt about these working conditions in other countries, we wrote letters to different companies for example; Nike, Adidas, Next, Topshop, Primark etc. We asked them where their products were made, what the working and living conditions were like and how did they ensure their workers had a good quality of life. We then waited a while and got some letters back.
We got the same kind of response for every single letter. Nearly every company doesn’t actually manufacture their products themselves, they pay separate companies who own factories to do it for them. But they also sought to reassure us that these companies do treat their workers well and that they are paid fair wages. A lot of them said they had signed up to the ‘ethical trading initiative’. However we were often uncertain whether they were telling the the truth or not, as we might not want to buy their clothes any more if they are treating their workers badly so they might not admit that.
This was an interesting project as we were able to learn about where and how our clothes are made, but also about the power that we have as consumers. The companies that we buy from every day rely on us and therefore need to respond to our concerns and preferences