I know its difficult to manage working conditions in factories, the work has to be done as quickly as possible, the competition from other factories means that prices must be kept low, or lower and often the budget does not allow.
But factories are also filled with people like you and I.
People who work longer hours in conditions that are harder, hotter and more stressful from what you and I are used to.
And needless tho say the pay is also much lower and often they don’t even live together with their family.
So try and think, how can you help improve the conditions of other people working in factories?
For example can your design be constructed in easier, simpler ways? Especially if the machine operator is expected to stitch hundreds of pairs flawlessly during their shift. Realize that there is a difference between the attention to construction detail in mass production and in batch production.
If you think about it, as a designer if you’ve never made a shoe, how do you know if your design is not very difficult, or stressful to make?
The people that make our shoes are also our partners, essentially helping us get our product to market; for profit, or even just to improve your portfolio.
Its easy to turn a blind eye on factory working conditions, but should we?
Should we just leave it up to commissions to decide what acceptable working conditions are?
As designers can we also innovate how our footwear designs are made to offer the makers a better experience?..as well the consumer.
More often than not, stories involving sportswear giants and overseas suppliers are not good. Whether its international issues causing conflict on site or a blind eye turned to questionable conditions, the story usually ends with employees taking an L and the finger pointed at those in power.
Today is different. Following their 2014 sustainability report, Supply Management reported that adidas shut down 13 suppliers in Asia in an effort that should improve worker’s conditions. In total, this caused a shutdown of 104 factories which accounts for about a 10% rejection rate based on their factory screening policy.
“The remediation of factory issues is beneficial for workers; it raises the bar in terms of better and more timely pay, improved benefits, reduced hours and the legal protection of formal employment contracts, as well as significant improvements in basic health and safety within the workplace,” adidas stated in the report.
On top of that, adidas has expanded its workers’ grievance hotline in both Vietnam and Indonesia. The brand also issued 65 warning letters regarding complaints of management, payment, and working conditions, distributed to suppliers in 13 different countries.
While details regarding how working conditions have improved at such suppliers are mostly unknown, it is nice to see what looks like a positive move to address what’s been a longtime problem. Salute, adidas.
By Ian Stonebrook
For further reading on the subject of why its important to improve working conditions in factories check out my other posts:
Design to Reduce Workers Alienation HERE
The Social Case for Advanced Manufacturing HERE
Automated Footwear Manufacturing for Improved Working Conditions, Product Quality and Cost Reduction HERE