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Bangladesh factory collapse: Why what we buy matters

World Vision
25 June 2013 by Ruth Dearnley
Bangladesh factory collapse: Why what we buy matters

Stories from the recent Bangladesh factory collapse have people wondering about buying tainted products. But we do have choices. Photo: Suzy Sainovski, World Vision.

You may have seen the harrowing images of the aftermath of the Rana Plaza collapse on Four Corners last night. In my work I see stories of exploitation far too often, but I was still shocked by what I saw.

Many Australians want to do their part to stop this happening again. But what does this mean? Should we only buy local? Should we boycott global products?

I’ve already put my hand up to say I don’t think boycotts work. And buying local seems like the logical choice, but unfortunately it’s not always that easy. Globalisation is an undeniable part of the world we live in today. What we buy matters – it impacts other people in often unseen ways. The reality is if we buy all our bananas from Australia, then rural farming communities in developing countries like Ecuador (the world’s biggest export of bananas) who rely on those sales lose vital livelihoods.

So we can – and in my opinion, should –be helping to end exploitative practices, like the sort featured on Four Corners. But we can’t do it alone. We can’t simply stop buying from the companies that invest in those countries – because that has the potential to damage livelihoods and lives of millions of workers around the world.

What we can – and should – do is call business to account for their actions. We can insist they check their supply chains and demand transparency for the real reasons behind the low prices we see in their stores. Businesses must be at the driving seat of this change.

What we can – and should – do is increase the demand for ethical goods that are independently certified to help workers and provide fair conditions and fair pay.

What we can – and should – do is ensure that the Rana Plaza disaster is the catalyst for change.

We face challenges as we try to get it right, these solutions aren’t simple. But what we do have are choices – and here in Australia we have more choices than many other people in the world. So when you’re shopping – don’t despair. Buy the most ethical products you can and if the product you really want isn’t as ethical as you would like them to be – ask them to change!

Ruth Dearnley is World Vision Australia’s Campaign Leader for Child Protection and Trafficking in Persons.  

How do stories like the Bangladesh factory collapse impact your purchasing decisions?

Ruth Dearnley Ruth Dearnley

Ruth is the former Public Advocacy Manager at World Vision Australia and a passionate advocate for all the little things we can all do to make a more just world.


4 Responses

  • JoshZwar says:

    Great post, Ruth. Boycotts or ‘buy local only’ don’t work, and they rob the poorest of an income.

    • Ruth Dearnley Ruth Dearnley says:

      Thanks Josh. Yes you are right – far better to ‘buycott’ and reward companies who are demonstrating the efforts they are taking to improve standards.

  • Tracey Scott says:

    my niece bought a pair of Roxy jeans from a surf shop and guess where they were made….Bangladesh. and they still have to balls to charge $ 100 a pair when it would’ve cost them $5…..

    • TimJ, World Vision team says:

      Hi Tracey, I hear what you are saying. Greed can be a great motivator, however I am also heartened that so many people are now aware of this injustice and want it to change. All the best. -TimJ, World Vision Team.

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