In April 2013, Rana Plaza, an eight-story commercial building, collapsed in Savar, a sub-district in the Greater Dhaka Area, the capital of Bangladesh. More than 1,100 people died, and more than 2,500 were injured. It is considered to be the deadliest accidental structural failure in modern history. Now, the question is: How can one know whether the products we buy have been manufactured responsibly? Wall Street Journal investigation renewed the issue of employee standards. The investigation found Amazon selling unsafe clothes from factories of Bangladesh that have been blacklisted by most leading retailers for dangerous workplace conditions.
Shawn Bhimani is a visiting assistant professor of Supply Chain Management at Northeastern University. He talks about how we can do our own instant investigations on the products we buy. According to Bhimani, every major brand around the world is aware of the best practices, which ensure that products are made with fair pay in sustainable environments that are not reliant on forced labor, human trafficking or unsafe working conditions. The Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act has been introduced to the House of Representatives. If that act were to become law, any company with over $100 million in sales would have to create transparency on where its products are coming from. The U.K. and California have introduced laws, which are forcing companies to implement best practices.
There is an organisation out of the United Kingdom called Provenance. It’s a blockchain start-up that enables consumers to scan a product and understand where it came from, how it was made, and its impact on the environment and society. There is also the EWG Healthy Living app from the Environmental Working Group. You can scan products, and it can tell you not only the provenance of some products but also how those products impact human health. However, this is not foolproof.
Companies can be more responsible through Northeastern’s Corporate Learning programs, which includes faculty across the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, where companies are trained in “responsible sourcing”. This means it teaches how to limit the impact that we have on people and the planet when we create products and services and sell them across the world.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman