Global sourcing is a topic that can become quite controversial because of its potential benefits and consequences. There are two viewpoints that can be associated with global sourcing, that of the company and that of the country and its inhabitants where the sourcing is being completed. This process can be seen throughout the various types of retailing, but the clothing industry is the one in which some of the consequences are detrimental to a brand.
As fast fashion continues to grow at a rapid pace with brands like Zara, Forever 21, and ASOS, it is becoming difficult for consumers to shop in locations that do not utilize this retail concept. Most clothing stores found in malls across America take part in fast-fashion or global sourcing of their labor and/or fabrics. As mentioned in an article titled, Fast Fashion, Sustainability, and the Ethical Appeal of Luxury Brands, “The phrase “fast fashion” refers to low-cost clothing collections that mimic current luxury fashion trends” (Joy et. al. 2012). However, for brands to be successful in doing this they must cut the costs somewhere along the line to provide these lower prices to consumers. While some of the costs are lost in the quality of the garment, much of the cost deduction is found in the sourcing of cheap labor across the globe in nations such as Indonesia, China, and Bangladesh. These cheaper labor costs also result in poor working conditions and long hours for the employees of these establishments, all for major fast-fashion retailers to continue to grow and earn higher profits. Nevertheless, large clothing retailers globally sourcing their labor allows for nations to build jobs for the inhabitants of these third-world nations, whether those are sustainable and well-paying jobs is another question. Global sourcing does benefit these nations’ economies and therefore it can be argued that the fast-fashion retailers are creating a win-win situation.
On the other hand, from the perspective of the businesses themselves, global sourcing is a great resource that has allowed many companies to overcome competition with unbeatable prices and an extremely quick turnaround time. As we have discussed in class, these are some competitive advantages that could lead to a company becoming more successful and out running all of their competition. In addition, globally sourcing textiles allows for companies to achieve products they previously might not have been able to produce because of the lack of materials. With these benefits comes some consequences that must be paid for, quite literally, as there are tariffs and import quotas that these large retailers must face. These are issues that many apparel companies see as some of the top challenges they face from year to year. As mentioned in the article Apparel industry ranks trade policy, tariffs as top business challenge, “Tariffs and trade policy leading to increased sourcing costs are top of mind for the apparel industry” (Kapadia 2018). With tariffs sitting at the top of many clothing retailers lists of concerns, it becomes apparent that many of these brands are focusing a majority of their business through global sourcing, therefore this is an issue that is more relevant now than ever.
Global sourcing, especially the sustainable and ethical aspects of it are extremely intriguing and important to me as a consumer. I have spent much of my time looking into where my clothing is sourced from and carefully choosing what brands to support and which to avoid. As I mentioned before it is becoming more and more difficult to shop in brick-and-mortar location, especially in smaller cities like Springfield, without purchasing from a brand that does not participate in proper ethical sourcing. Even though I can understand why businesses find global sourcing to be integral in the success of their business and maybe even what sky-rocketed their sales, I find it is important for consumers to be aware when shopping. I have watched the documentary The True Cost on Netflix and it put things into great perspective for me. I thought I understood what went into the global sourcing process in the garment industry, but I was not prepared for what I was about to learn from this film. At one point in the documentary, a young woman’s story is told of how she is working in a garment factory in Bangladesh to support herself and her child and she is barely making enough money to get by. Nevertheless the living conditions in Bangladesh are nowhere near the conditions in the United States, and seeing her day to day life made me think about how privileged we are as a nation that we can afford the lifestyles we live.