Forget about ‘ethical’ labels for clothes. We need ‘unethical’ ones

£3 t-shirts would come with a label stating: “Made by Bangladeshi girls, aged nine, in unsafe conditions for 1p a day. Enjoy.”

Share

If you ask me, an eight-story building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which had already been deemed unsafe, collapses and kills nearly 400 garment workers, some of whom were employed by Primark, and some of whom had variously worked for Matalan and Mango.

Spectacularly tragic, right? Western imperialism raping the shit out the rest of the world perhaps? So next time you’re in Primark and you see a 100 per cent cotton T-shirt for £3, you are going to think “there is something very wrong about a £3 T-shirt” and you don’t need another rubbishy T-shirt anyhow. So you are going to walk out empty-handed, but with your integrity intact, right? Yes. Of course. But wait. It’s a T-shirt. It’s 100 per cent cotton. It’s £3! I’d be MAD not to buy FOUR!? And those pyjamas with penguins all over them! Cute!

So, OK, here’s my idea, which is a brilliant idea, as I am the sort of person who naturally spills with brilliant ideas – sometimes, they even spill over into a big Brilliant Ideas puddle, which I have to mop up myself – unless I can employ someone from the Third World to do it for peanuts – and it’s this: let’s stop only labelling products positively. Why not go the other way? Instead of labelling clothes as “ethical”, why not assume that all goods are ethical and if they are not this must be expressly stated by manufacturers. For example, the £3 T-shirt would have to come with a label stating: “Made by Bangladeshi girls, aged nine, in unsafe conditions for 1p a day. Enjoy.” Or: “An old woman went blind in the dark making this. Happy times.” If we could no longer choose to not see the story behind a garment, maybe Primark and similar would start to look less like fun palaces and more like what they are: depressing emporiums of inferior, cheap clothing that exploit economically depressed countries and sell £5 rayon “career blouses” which have never saved anyone’s career, as far as I know.

Such a “negative labelling” system could, in fact, be extended to everything we buy. Eggs that aren’t free-range , for example, would have to be described as “unhappy eggs from battery chickens not free to roam the Devon countryside”, and coffee that rips-off Africans would have to be stamped with: “Unfairly traded with those poor saps in Kenya”. This would encourage consumers to buy better, less often, and would force retailers to impose new levels of decency. And that’s my brilliant idea for today, but just one last thought: the £5 “career blouse”. Nope. I still can’t think of anyone for whom it has proved a career boost. Just saying.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Support Administrator - Part Time

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the South West'...

Recruitment Genius: Secretary

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This major European Intellectual Propert...

Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher

£130 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Humanities Teacher Jan 2015 - July...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - 9-12 Months

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Accounts Assistant is immedi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: Calling black people 'coloured' removes part of their humanity

Yemisi Adegoke
 

Dippy the Diplodocus: The great exotic beast was the stuff of a childhood fantasy story

Charlie Cooper
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness