Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Will there be an "ethics law" for the retail industry in Norway?

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
If you had the legal right to claim more information about the piece of clothing you just bought, for instance how the garment was produced, would you demand it from the store?

This is what the potential new "ethics law" might give Norwegian consumers. Last week it was clear that the majority in the Parliament wants the law proposition reviewed by the Government. Such law would demand transparency from the retail industry (including clothing retail) on how various products were manufactured, to avoid low wages, pressure to work over time and harsh working conditions.1
Will there be an ethics law for the fashion industry in Norway?
Will there be an ethics law for the fashion industry in Norway? 2

It is claimed that many (Norwegian) consumers want more information so they can make ethical choices, whether they're purchasing a sweater or a toy. Companies today are not obligated to publish their supplier lists, which makes it harder for conscious consumers to make ethical choices.

An ethics law is a way of strengthening the consumer power and supporting the textile industry in developing countries. Hurrah for that! :-)
Cutting cotton at a factory
Cutting cotton at a factory 3

Here are some of the key points from the proposal:

  1. According to the Parliament's site, the law will potentially apply to textiles, clothing, shoes, electronics, furniture, coffee/tea, cacao and toys.4

  2. It is proposed that the law should apply to every single company that imports goods into Norway. 

  3. It is also suggested that it should be looked into making it mandatory for the company to provide information about wages, working hours and working environment. 

  4. The company should be obligated to provide information about where the products are manufactured.

  5. It should be considered whether the obligation to provide information should apply to one or several links (I guess they're referring to the supply chain). 

A law does no good without enforcement. Therefore it is suggested in the proposal that a complaints board should be established. Let's say that H&M has refused to provide information. I personally hope that a complaints board will be able to give huge economic penalties so multimillionaire companies like H&M won't think it's peanuts to pay the fine and continue to disregard their obligation to provide information. All of this depends on how the law is written, which I hope some excellent academics can look closer into.

It was originally the NGO - Future in our hands (translated to Framtiden i våre hender) - that started a nationwide rally on social media in 2015, explaining to consumers why there should be a new ethics law. They received over 23.000 signatures...5 In tiny Norway, that means a lot of signatures!

If you thought that you had no or little power as a consumer, then think again ;-) The law proposal shows that consumer power works.

One voice is enough to spread the word, and before you know it, there are thousands of voices that get the attention of the right people.

Continue to read:
"Made in Bangladesh" equals unethical clothing?

Sweatshop web-series: Scandinavian fashion bloggers facing the textile industry in Cambodia.

How to deal with environmental and social guilt.


Have your say about what you just read :)

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