Consumers are not only interested in the quality of the products they purchase, but also the social and environmental conditions under which these items were produced. Companies count on maintaining a good reputation amongst consumers. For that reason, you can make a big difference as a consumer. First, you can respond to urgent action alerts, available here on our website. If you'd like to do more, you can try some of these action ideas or get involved in one of our current campaigns.
Unfortunately, the "Made in Canada" label is no guarantee that clothes were made under humane working conditions. Even in Canada, many garment workers are paid below the legal minimum wage, work under unhealthy conditions and face harassment if they try to stand up for their rights. And many of the materials, as well as earlier steps in production, may have been done in other countries.
The global trading system puts workers in each country into competition with one another for employment. We need to focus on strategies that a) build solidarity between workers globally, b) enforce global rules on corporations wherever they produce, and c) change trade rules so that lower labour standards cannot be part of a country's competitive advantage.
The short answer is that for most apparel, you can't. Most apparel companies keep the factories they use hidden from the public. However, thanks to public pressure, that's changing. Many companies that sell university-licensed goods have had to disclose their manufacturing sites, and some major brands like Levi Strauss, Nike, Timberland and others have disclosed their supply chains to the public.
You can find out who owns the brand and what country it was assembled in, by tracing the label on the clothing. First, the country of manufacture should be listed on the clothing label. Next, using a database on the Internet you can look up who owns the brand name of a garment. Just type in the CA number you find on the label (or the RN number for U.S. textile products or WPL number for U.S. wool products), and the database will tell you who owns the brand and their address.
The Ethical Trading Action Group has proposed federal regulations requiring companies to disclose the names and addresses of the factories used to manufacture a company's apparel products. Using the CA number, this information could be made available on the internet. However, faced with strong resistance from industry, the Canadian government refused to regulate disclosure.
Boycotting a specific brand won't necessarily lead to better working conditions, and could harm the workers we want to support. Asking companies for proof that they are taking responsibility for the conditions under which their products are made is a better approach. Read more here.
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