We were recently listening to This American Life and this story, about overseas manufacturing in Cambodia, really resonated with us. It reminded us of why we feel so strongly about local manufacturing and the need for businesses to build reinforcing economic loops and strong communities through their activities, as opposed to letting profit margins dictate short term gains.
Since this story was aired in 2005, the situation of the garment industry in Cambodia has worsened. According to the most recent data we’ve found, 2009 saw the Cambodian garment industry lose 29,000 jobs, while only 7,500 were created. The Chairman of the Garment Manufacturing Association in Cambodia describes 2009 as “a disaster for Cambodia’s garment industry”.
Confronted with those numbers, it’s difficult to keep an uncomfortable question from being asked: How much long term good can be done by moving manufacturing overseas to support these kind of short term fair labor initiatives? After all, Cambodia’s leadership on implementing fair labor practices deserves nothing but praise, and they now possess a well trained workforce needing jobs.
If the big guy truly wants to support the little guy, then success requires a commitment that goes beyond shallow CSR and short term initiatives driven by the bottom line.
You can listen to “Dreaming of distant factories” using the player above. It’s 30 minutes long, good for a rest day. Let us know your thoughts.
More stories by Rachel Louise Snyder on Global Grit, her website.