This is the third installment in a four-part miniseries on wellbeing in garment factories, and it’s all about subcontracting. Research from Human Rights Watch has shown that people working in subcontracted facilities often fare worse than people working in larger, more visible, garment factories. And that’s fair. But conventional logic usually goes like this: better oversight and regulation leads to better outcomes for people. In other words: more visibility equals more wellbeing. But is this a fair assumption? In this week’s episode I explore this question by sharing some of my own thoughts, and a couple of clips from previous episodes. The first clip is from our season four opener, during which Jessie talks about her encounter with subcontracting when she was working for a French brand as a merchandiser in China. The second clip is from episode 18. My co-founder Jessie Li interviewed a subcontractor in Phnom Penh. Because the conversation was in Chinese, she summarized some highlights for us.
Here’s what I ask you to consider as you listen: is visibility a sensible way of approaching wellbeing in fashion supply chains? Is the fact that subcontractors are invisible really what causes adverse human rights outcomes? Or are adverse human rights outcomes in fashion supply chains a symptom of how we distribute financial risk?