The NCSU study describes the basic need to bring factories into compliance with labor standards
RALEIGH – North Carolina State University researchers conducted an in-depth study to identify all the steps clothing factories must take to comply with international labor standards. The study is a first step in determining what such compliance would cost consumers and providing assistance in making the necessary changes.
“People talk about raising the standards for garment factory workers, but there is a cost to doing so,” said Rob Handfield, correspondent author of the study. âIf we really want to improve standards, we need to pinpoint these costs and build support for paying those costs.
âThis paper lays the foundation for this work. It does not calculate exact costs, but describes for the first time everything that has to be done in clothing factories to comply with international labor standards: fair pay, working conditions, fire safety and so on. âHandfield is the Distinguished Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management at Bank of America University from NC State’s Poole College of Management.
For the study, the researchers interviewed 15 professionals with experience in auditing garment factories to determine their compliance with international labor standards. The aim of the survey was to identify all of the actions that factories must take to at least meet these standards, with a particular focus on actions that have a cost.
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The researchers conducted several rounds of surveys with each study participant to ensure a deep understanding of the relevant topics.
“Eight international labor standards apply here, and we were able to identify several measures that would result in costs for each of these standards,” says Rejaul Hasan, first author of the paper and former Ph.D. Student at NC State. “However, the costs associated with meeting each standard would vary from factory to factory, depending on what action, if any, they have already taken.”
“This is the first detailed taxonomy of all the potential costs associated with a factory doing what is absolutely necessary to meet international standards,” said Marguerite Moore, study co-author and professor of textiles and apparel, technology and management at NC State Wilson College of Textiles. âSo that’s a big step forward. But it is a first step forward. “
Future research by the team will apply the taxonomy to individual factories to determine the cost of each factory. The researchers also plan to use the taxonomy to determine what compliance would mean in terms of the cost of each finished garment.
âUltimately, all of this will affect our understanding of what needs to be done to implement changes related to responsible apparel sourcing,â says Hasan. âWhat do we need for political changes? What do we need from brands and investors? What needs to be done to encourage consumer support? “
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“We have to address all of these questions if we are to make real change,” says Handfield.
The study “Establishing Operational Norms for Labor Rights Standards Implementation in Low-Cost Apparel Production” is published in the journal Open Access sustainability.
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