Are factory certifications important?

Posted On February 10, 2022

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So, you’ve spent weeks researching Ethical Manufacturing but don’t know who to trust? You’ve been hearing about these certifications from every company you’ve come across, but have no idea if they actually mean anything?

UNPOPULAR OPINION: FACTORY CERTIFICATIONS DON’T MEAN ANYTHING

The insider truth is, factory certifications are a business. If a factory has the financial means, it can afford to pay the certification’s high fees. In addition, these days there are so many certificates to keep track of that it’s tough to keep up with them all.

Because many of these certifications are pay to play, that means suppliers who don’t necessarily meet certification standards sometimes are able to slip through the cracks by offering a little extra cash, while smaller factories who cannot afford the hefty fee are unable to obtain certification.

In order to avoid sweatshops and labour abuses, many companies choose to buy from factories that are “certified” as ethical. But these factory certifications are not always reliable. They are an easy way for factories to pay for a certificate that doesn’t force them to change their labour practices or manufacturing processes at all, and many factories can afford it because the cost is minimal compared with what they stand to make from unethical labour.

Crazy right!

Be sure to consider this when conducting your research. When you’re looking for an ethical supplier, don’t just look for their certification.

In my opinion, there are far better uses of money spent to “certify” factories. Like giving directly to the factory workers or the local community, building amenities such as prayer rooms or western bathrooms or donating to local charities.

There are far better factors to consider when looking at the ethics of a factory rather than certifications. Such as:

  • How are the workers treated? Are they paid a living wage & given safe working conditions?

  • What is the company’s history? Do they have a track record of ethical sourcing, or have they been caught engaging in labour abuses or other unethical practices?

  • Does the company have a code of conduct? Are their standards for ethical manufacturing clear and easy to understand?

  • What are the factory’s environmental standards? Are they making efforts to reduce their energy consumption, water usage, etc.?

  • Lastly, look at their product. A company that manufactures sustainable products will likely put more effort into ensuring they are being made ethically too.

So, how do you find the answers to these questions? The easiest way is to ask. I can assure you, factories are absolutely dying to show off. They want you to know what they’re doing well, and if not, they’ll make every effort to change your mind.

Remember too that a factory is only a means to an end. They are not the source of all your ethical sourcing information, you are! If a company claims they manufacture ethically without any evidence, get in touch with someone who has visited the factory or contact their competitors to find out what’s really going on.

Anyway, that’s just my two cents – take it or leave it! But as someone who has lived and worked in factories in Bali for the better part of 10 years, I feel confident in saying it’s not all about the certs.

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