Shoppers in Ottawa say they’re becoming more aware of how their clothes are made following this week’s tragedy in Bangladesh.
The death toll is nearing 350 after a factory collapsed in the capital of Dhaka on Wednesday.
Safety inspectors had ordered it to be closed because of cracks found in the structure but its owners continued working, manufacturing clothing for brands that include Loblaws’ Joe Fresh and paying workers as little as $39 a month.
Ottawa fashion blogger Jane Daly said she and her 17-year-old daughter were discussing the ethics of the collapse, but didn’t know what consumers could do.
“We are big Joe Fresh fans and we had seen that striking photograph of the Joe Fresh jeans lying in the rubble, covered in dust,” she said.
“Is it easy to find out where the clothes are made? Did I look at the labels of Joe Fresh? Does it say in tiny little font somewhere, ‘Made in Bangladesh?’”
Mallory Bertrand, editor of Ottawa-based ethical fashion magazine EF, said companies sometimes contract their work to a factory that meets standards – but that factory then sub-contracts the work out to one that doesn’t.
“The reason that your jeans are only $15 is because the large company that had them manufactured overseas cut costs by working with companies overseas that don't care about the working conditions of their workers,” she said.
Bertrand said while companies may not have or be unwilling to spend the money needed to keep an eye on such things, there are websites that can help.
“There are different websites such as TrackMyT.com, where you can actually scan the barcode of certain t-shirts depending on the company,” she said.
“They'll show you where it was made, from where the cotton was cultivated to where it was actually put together.”
Another online service is GoodGuide.com, which ranks apparel companies from most ethical and environmentally friendly to least.
Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar said the Canadian government should play a role as well.
"We have missions abroad,” he said.
“We can use those mission to ensure that Canadian companies are going to be doing everything they can to ensure that there's compliance with basic labour standards."