If Not You,Then Who Will Guard the Global Village?
On the other hand, Dard Products has taken a slightly different route, actually setting up offices in Hong Kong in order to maintain standards set by STR (Specialized Technology Resources), an international service provider that works to ensure responsible corporate work sites. As Shevin-Sandy explained, about 78 percent of Dard Products’ offerings comes from China and just a few items from India, while the other 20 percent is made in union factories in
the United States. To maintain presence overseas, the company opened its own
Hong Kong office and hired an on-site managing director.
“My managing director, a Westerner, has now moved to Hong Kong to help the
factory … maintain the quality level that we require. I have a team of QC [quality control], who does above and beyond the factory’s [own] QC in the beginning, middle and end of the run, as well as use[s] STR for the final inspection,” she noted.
Though Kernaghan emphasized that, without being in the factory daily, 100 percent guarantees are an impossibility, retaining offices abroad can be an effective safeguard. However, when that’s not feasible, domestic measures are a step in the right direction, though not quite foolproof. With this knowledge, Pahlka explained Bodek and Rhodes has done everything possible stateside, on its side of the supply chain. “Since many of us suppliers are using more than an octopus of global sources, it has been difficult to wrap our arms around each of the manufacturing agents to ensure socially responsible workplaces and work forces. But using guidelines such as those established by W.R.A.P. … and clear communications of our intentions, we can finally ensure our part of the industry is manufactured with peace of mind in that regard.”
At a minimum, there is an upside to audit days. Kernaghan said, “Workers report that, when auditors show up, at least there is toilet paper, clean drinking water and a decent meal. And it is a sign that the supplier outsourcing the product cares. But monitoring has limits in a country like China. [There is] no free media, no strong civil society, no women’s rights groups, no human-rights groups, unions or concerned citizens. If [these elements aren’t in place], it’s like monitoring a well-run prison and the workers are terrified. The individual has absolutely zero rights.”