Why do we do it?
Of course, we could have our products manufactured in India or Bangladesh, or – to remain a little closer to home – in Bulgaria or Romania. Transportation is cheap, so are the workers. Environmental regulations aren’t as tight or are not as strictly adhered to as they are here.
Stop! Those are good enough reasons to manufacture things in the Far East and Eastern Europe?
For us it’s a reason to have a closer look…
On 3rd March 2016, the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung published an article (German only) about cheap labour in Romania and Bulgaria. The article focussed on the embroidery factory Maglierie Cristian Impex located in Calafat, Southern Romania, which produces items for large, well-known brands. We read about working conditions that are reminiscent of the poorest countries in Asia, such as Bangladesh, being tolerated in the EU. The majority of the workforce is made up of women, who are usually employed at the minimum legal wage. This should work out at a few hundred Euros a month, but in reality they earn much less. Workers often have to wait for weeks or months for their wages to be paid and they can’t actively complain about this to the management for fear of losing their jobs.
According to a non-governmental organisation, these sorts of problems are widespread throughout the region. A report by the ‘Clean Clothes’ campaign – an international group that advocates better working conditions in the textile industry – says that starvation wages, dangerous working conditions and forced overtime are ‘characteristic of the entire clothing industry’ in Eastern Europe and Turkey. The group discovered that the legal minimum wage in all countries investigated is below the poverty line and far below the estimated minimum subsistence level for a family of four. In both Romania and Bulgaria, the minimum wage was only around 20% of the minimum subsistence level.
Shouldn’t a branded goods company be willing to support socially fair wages and working conditions? That’s what social audits are for; to check that working conditions conform to international (not Central European!) standards. The problem is that the auditors are only on site for a short amount of time and the workers are often scared to talk to them for fear of losing their jobs.
We don’t deny that some companies do try to ensure fair working conditions on their premises. However, these conditions are still far removed from our own high standards, which cannot be adhered to without a permanent on-site presence.
Our second example takes us to Bangladesh. On 12th July 2013, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin took us to one of the poorest regions in the world with an article and a corresponding photo (German only) about how the British Council allow their advertising bags to be produced there, despite reassurances that they don’t tolerate child labour and carry out random checks. But who knows which factory passes contracts on to subcontractor after subcontractor after subcontractor at constantly cheaper conditions?
Let’s stay in Bangladesh with an article from Spiegel Online (German only), published on 14th May 2013 about the collapse of the textile factory in Savar. Why do we hear about these working conditions in Bangladesh only when a factory collapses or burns down? It’s sounds cynical and it is.
Back in May 2013, the press was full of the story; it was analysed for days and sparked huge debate on who should be held responsible. The company? The consumers? The government? However, nothing has changed. The subcontractor system remains in place, prices continue to be pushed down and workers – mainly women – are employed in inhuman conditions.
Before this, in December 2012, the FAZ reported (German only) on the catastrophic working conditions in this region and the deplorably low wages that aren’t enough to survive on. A few weeks before the article was published, 289 workers were injured in a fire in a textile factory in Pakistan. The will to change things is there but it simply doesn’t work in practice. Many workers are forced to work 14–15 hour shifts, seven days a week. They work in unsafe and dangerous conditions where sexual harassment and discrimination is rife.
Most of the clothes are produced for the Western market. The list of brands who manufacture their goods there reads like a ‘Who’s who?’ of the cheap fashion labels and branded goods companies. At least since the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights 2011 was passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council, companies are responsible for ensuring that human rights and working conditions are protected. (www.zeit.de/2013/19/bangladesch-textilfabrik-einsturz-geiz – German only). There is still no corporate liability for companies that produce their goods in countries such as Bangladesh, China, Vietnam or Pakistan.
Much more can be said about production conditions in China or India with conditions in the latter not being much better than those already mentioned. The textile industry has always moved to wherever it’s cheapest and where there are fewer regulations that have to be adhered to.
Where do we manufacture our products?
In 1972, when Erika Hoffmann made her way in the family’s Fiat 500 to the Swabian Alps to persuade a weaving mill to take on her seemingly crazy project, the German textile industry was still flourishing. However, within just a few decades it had all but vanished. Nowadays there are only a very few, highly specialised factories, but they’re still there. Today, DIDYOMOS baby wraps aren’t only woven (or knitted, if we’re talking about jersey wraps) in the Swabian Alps, they are also produced in the Mühlviertel region of Austria. The yarn is dyed in Germany and Austria. The sewing is done in various factories in these two countries and the finished products are all packaged by us in Ludwigsburg. From here, they are sent out to you. As we cannot cultivate the raw cotton, we rely on suppliers from around the world and will only accept yarns that are certified according to the Global Organic Textile Standard.
You can find out more about our production here. We are constantly updating and reworking the information.