Can’t wait for the latest gadget? That’s a feeling a lot of people have these days. But the idea that your shiny new laptop or games console might have cost a life is not going to add to the attraction.
This is the unfortunate shadow cast by recent news stories about Chinese workers committing suicide in response to poor working and living conditions. Major brands outsource their manufacturing to some of these factories. It may be that these brands should now be thinking about protecting their own equity from the bad publicity their suppliers are getting.
One idea would be for interested parties – the brand owners, the outsourcing contractors, Government and employee representatives – to establish an agreement on fairness at work. Once this was in place the consortium could then sponsor a trust marque, not unlike the ‘Fair Trade’ marque which can be found on some supermarket items such as tea, coffee and bananas. At Pajama we have developed a ‘Fair Trade China’ marque as a suggestion for the way the trust marque might look and read.
Of course, the question will be whether consumer attitudes to technology goods are as sensitive to these ethical issues as they are when it comes to grocery items. Technology companies have had to clean up their act in recent years from an environmental standpoint. It might make sense to get on the front foot with this dimension of brand legitimation, rather than wait for concerned consumers to make a huge issue over tech outsourcing as they did a decade ago with sports shoes.