The True Cost: A Reflection on Production

true-costOn Thursday, November 11, Cornell Thrift and Cornell Organization for Labor Action hosted a movie screening and discussion of The True Cost, a documentary about the dangers of the fashion industry’s overseas production. The event centered around the exploitation of labor in clothing production, focusing on the conditions and collapse of Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The documentary and discussion revealed that new companies need to be careful when finding factories for production. Many companies cut cost through outsourcing production to other countries, creating a “race to the bottom” that harms factory workers’ wages and well-being. Ninety-seven percent of clothes sold in the United States are made abroad, much of which are produced in countries where young women are paid a few dollars a day.

The event raised several questions that companies need to consider when making manufacturing decisions. Not only is it important to ethically source production, but it is up to companies to educate customers how to dispose of their products. The average household disposes eighty-two pounds of textiles a year, and only ten percent of donated clothes are resold. The rest is relocated to landfills, where clothes release chemicals for hundreds of years. Companies should be aware of the life cycle of their products and educate consumers on ways to re-purpose or dispose of their products after their initial use is over. 

Overall, the event highlighted that companies – whether they are start-ups or long-established firms – need to ensure fairness across their supply chains. Cutting corners in cost at the start of the production cycle harms the livelihood of others and the environment.

To learn more about the documentary, visit The True Cost’s website.