Does fast fashion enhance poor garment manufacturer working conditions in Bangladesh ?

An article in the New Yorker by James Surowicki (May 20,2013) quotes MIT political scientist Richard Locke as suggesting that fast fashion, with short cycle times, high variety and demands for quick turnaround, force garment manufacturers to demand poor working conditions to win business. With contracts over shorter time periods that are lost due to delivery delays, the focus of manufacturers is to deliver at all costs. Can buyers coordinate with these manufacturers to improve working conditions, productivity, wages and get timely delivery? Will buyer efforts to improve working conditions increase costs to the point at which outsourcing manufacturing losts its economic benefit ? Or is fast fashion and the demand for quick turnaround the cause of this problem that needs to be reconsidered ?

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16 Responses to Does fast fashion enhance poor garment manufacturer working conditions in Bangladesh ?

  1. Qiutong Zhang says:

    Fast fashion Industry stand for the fast response for the fashion and produce fast. In this case, the margin can be really low thus may pose to the poor working conditions. Company need to reduce the cost of design part and production part. But if the process can be standardized, it may sharply cut down the cost and thus increase the profits.

  2. Irina Benedyk says:

    Maybe I will not be very consistent in my comments, but I would like to say some words about this problem.
    This question is really important and the importance of it will rise year to year. It is more then 30 years past from the beginning of rapid growth of export from developing countries. A lot of goods moved from Asia. Some factories have been built under strict control of US and European companies. But not all. Local entrepreneurs also started their own construction. And every year more and more new constructions are been built without any control. High level of corruption is still make it possible to put into operation unreliably buildings. And we have begun getting the result.
    Now it is a question of world regulation. It will cost a lot of money to buyers, factories and final customers. But it should be done. World national regulation should insists that every country force the componeis from different retail sphere to be responsible for the whole process of manufactoring. They have already done a lot of for improving the factories performance quality control, logistics innovation added every year. But quality of working condition is out of their interest.
    But it should be done. This is not a question of profit or company safety. This is like ecology. It is expensive to support the ecology but every company should follow some rules. The same should be done in sphere of working conditions in developing countries.
    Otherwise, we will enter the era of the technogenic disaster.

  3. Ashish Agrawal says:

    I think, nature of the garment business has nothing to do with the poor working condition in Bangladesh. Because in today’s scenario, quick responsiveness, ever changing market conditions, cost competitiveness, exists in almost every industry.
    Poor working condition of the units is because the garment manufacturing unit is highly unorganized. Big garment houses hire these units as contract manufacturer units and because of the absence of any regulatory authority and policy these big guns been able to negotiate the price and squeeze the profit margin of these manufacturers. Apparel Industry where the profit margin is around 200 to 300%, buyers if want can work towards the development of the suppliers by signing a long term manufacturing agreement, or by sharing some of their profit so that buyer can leverage the manufacturing capacity and get their order fast while manufacturers will have secured income.

  4. Sarath Suresh says:

    Being fast and responsive have become the pre requisite for any industry to remain competitive and thus is true for the apparel industry as well.The only difference here is that the cycle time is much much lower compared to the other ones.One must understand that the apparel industry is one where the margins are very high.Despite this high margins, these companies look for countries like Bangladesh to reap maximum profits.These practices will change only if the consumers start speaking against these bad working conditions meted out to the poor people in Bangladesh.The brands must be held responsible for the manufacturing similar to how Apple is now being asked to look into the conditions of workers at Foxconn. The process of ethical sourcing needs a big push at this stage to resolve issues like this.

  5. deepakregu says:

    It is a responsibility in the interest of sustainability of the supply chain that the developing nations are not exploited as it is not long before those local governments sever the business links to avoid exploitation of their people.

  6. Rohit Singh says:

    People in developing countries won’t remain exploited for long and thus these players need to see the future and improve the working conditions. This industry has high margins and low design cycle and can, if not should, push themselves towards ethical sourcing and keep the brand name synonymous with ethics.

  7. Mehul Raina says:

    Certainly when the manufacturer is trying to introduce fast fashion, there are certain in which it has to reduce costs so as to remain competitive in market. The brunt as a result is faced by the labourers working in outsourced manufacturing facilities.

    I would like to draw parallels with the construction industry, wherein growing demands of real estate is leading huge intake of workers from developing countries which are then subjected to horrible working conditions. A lot of it has to be curbed by the governments of such countries by enforcing stricter laws.

  8. Shiv Kamat says:

    Fast fashion does not translate into poor conditions for the garment manufacturers in Bangladesh. There are numerous others instances in the automobile industry wherein the automotive components manufacturers in order to deliver low cost parts to OEMs do not provide healthy working conditions to its workers. The real cause of this issue is lack of awareness among the workers that they should demand for better working conditions, lack of employer sensitiveness and also in some cases lack of government regulations.

  9. Kevin Morrisroe says:

    I do not believe fast gasion or the quick turnaround the cause for poor working conditions. I believe it is on the company who does not ask how they are getting these clothes. More and more in America culture, companies must prove their supply chain does not have poor working conditions. Eventually I do believe, the benefit of outsourcing to other countries will lose its economic benefit but not for a while (especially in the fashion industry).

  10. Rahul Srinivas Sucharitha says:

    Suitable working conditions is the need of the hour currently and improving one’s working conditions should aid in better production of goods in the manufacturing sector. Hence, it is imperative for the buyers to co-ordinate with the manufacturers to improve the working conditions. By doing this, the costs would increase but considering that there are better forecasting methods to the demands, the cost could be nullified to an extent that it would not hinder the profitability of the products manufactured.

  11. Greg Nichter says:

    In my opinion, fast fashion has the potential to shift apparel manufacturing away from outsourcing. As awareness increases global working conditions, it is becoming more of a priority that all links in the supply chain are performing ethically. If manufacturers improve working conditions, this could definitely have an impact on their bottom lines, leading to higher costs. This presents a difficult coordination problem, and I can see how apparel manufacturing will shift away from low wage countries such as Bangladesh.

  12. Trey Christner says:

    Buyers will be able to coordinate with these manufactures to improve efficiencies because it will save costs for both parties if they can coordinate effectively. Buyer efforts will increase costs to improve working conditions, but it will not lose outsourcing profits. The fast fashion idea may need to be reconsidered however. Quick turnaround is most likely the root of the issue.

  13. Amanda Dyson says:

    I think that we’re going to start seeing more of a shift in a demand for safe working conditions in the apparel industry, despite the extra costs that might result. This poses the question of whether or not there will even be a benefit in continuing to outsource these items in order to capitalize on the cheaper labor offered in other countries. I don’t think that the costs to better working conditions will raise the labor cost enough to justify moving all manufacturing back to the U.S.. Recent data has shown that Americans are pushing for products that come from good working conditions — they are not concerned with how this happens; they just want it to happen. Therefore, buyers need to take the initiative to work with the manufacturers to ensure that ethical practices are put into place. Both parties need to understand the positive and negative aspects that go along with this and coordinate their supply chains to result in the most optimized outcome for both companies and the customer.

    • Joseph Mista says:

      I agree with Amanda in that more and more people are considering the ethics of purchasing a specific branded item. This does put added pressure on the manufacturers, but I believe this added pressure is a good pressure when all things are considered. It may eat away at profit, but regulations are becoming more and more strict on proper working conditions. You cannot blame the customer demand for supply chain issues, the customer wants what they want and it is the supply chains job to adapt. The buyers and manufacturers must coordinate to allow for mitigation of some of the cost concerns.

  14. Yuwa Sun says:

    I think buyers should not have passed their accountabilities down to manufacturers. We can consider a buyer’s role as the procurement manager of a grocery store, as in there is “expiration date” for fast fashion products. The case reminds me of Foxconn, the extreme pressure and low compensation seriously jeopardize the workers’ health condition. Before contracting with a manufacturer, I think it is important to have an in-depth knowledge of the capacity of a plant and where their limitations (bottlenecks) lie at, and try to help with improving it in order to achieve higher efficiency.

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