Letters: Ban the sweatshops

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The Independent Culture
Ban the sweatshops

Sir: I applaud The Independent's campaign to expose sweatshop conditions in clothing manufacture. I hope you will sustain it for as much time as it takes to change public attitudes. The idea of a kitemark to indicate ethically manufactured goods seems particularly praiseworthy.

Some years ago, I conducted an unofficial survey of my own, writing to ten randomly chosen clothing companies to ask about their policies in this area. The response - or in five out of ten cases, the total lack of response - was very educative.

Of those that replied, some opted for meaningless phrasemaking. One sent me a two-line reply claiming that it was "not unethical in any of its dealings". Others wrote as if they had no idea how their goods were manufactured - which, given the use of middlemen, may indeed be true.

My letter clearly took most companies by surprise. I received a full and detailed reply from an American-based company, Land's End, but even they confessed they had no written policy in place. Only one, Peruvian Connection, sent me a statement of fair trade. All praise to them, but one out of ten is pretty unimpressive.

Change won't happen overnight, but if you can get companies more aware that they ought to be fielding those sorts of questions, that has to be a good thing.

Dr ALISON SHELL

Department of English Studies

University of Durham

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