Monsoon attacked for admitting problems in its supply chain
Recent attacks on Monsoon for discovering child labour miss the point, says Ethical Consumer
After the recent exposé on Dispatches revealing clothes being made for the UK high street in Leicester sweatshops, the media is hungry for blood.
Sure enough, just a fortnight later, they found their second victim, Monsoon. This target was all the more satisfying for the fact that this is a company that makes a meal out of its ethical credentials.
Monsoon was attacked by the media, who gleefully reminded us of the irony that the company sponsors Estethica, the ethical section of London Fashion Week.
Stories flooded the news of “embarrassing revelations” about under-age children and underpaid women making Monsoon's clothes in India. The fact that these 'revelations' were actually reported by the company itself, as a result of the findings of its own audit processes, was presented as a byline to the story.
As has been pointed out by the press, Ethical Consumer named Monsoon as the most ethical clothes shop on the high street in our 2008 buyers' guide to Clothes Shops. Now that isn't necessarily saying much, as unfortunately all high street clothes companies have an extremely long way to go before they could be considered 'ethical.' Indeed, Monsoon is far from perfect, but it at least demonstrates some progress towards environmental and social sustainability, making it the best of a bad bunch.
We can't claim to be shocked that these sorts of workers' rights abuses are occurring in the clothing supply chain. Appalling as they are, the issue is not whether or not such problems exist, but how they are remedied and prevented in future.
At Ethical Consumer, we see Monsoon's revelations, although awful, as proof that its auditing process is working. We encourage self-disclosure by companies, by not scoring them down for doing so. Monsoon's Ethiscore rating remains the same as before this incident.
Monsoon has admitted to the world that it is struggling to tackle the problem of child labour in it's supply chain, and it's only through admitting fault that a company can begin working towards a solution. By slamming companies for admitting their problems, we may only encourage them to brush things under the carpet in future.
Hopefully this self-disclosure will attract help from campaigners, and will publicly hold the company to account for improving working conditions throughout its supply chain.
Download our 2009 Buyers' Guide to Clothes Shops for £3 which rates 47 high street shops and includes a detailed rating and comparison of their workers' rights policies.
The report includes an Alternative Clothing Directory which includes 18 ethical clothes companies that are raising the bar in the rag trade.