Quote of the Day: Carl Pope on Outsourcing to China


Photo credit: imelda
It used to be that when I saw a Mattel toy, I presumed that Mattel made the toy in a factory the company built and manages, with workers it hired and supervises, and that it would not be so crass or dumb as to save a fraction of a penny on a $30 toy by using lead paint.

But Mattel and other businesses know something they are not willing to tells us:
In today's globalized economy, top companies have lost control of the quality of the goods that display their logos. They are powerless to prevent a recurrence of the toxic-toy tragedy—and they are terrified that their brands could be dragged through the mud when the next epidemic of dangerous products strikes.

The problem is not China. The problem is a business model in which companies outsource manufacturing under short-term, low-cost contracts to the firm that will follow their design standards most cheaply. All that is really Fisher-Price about Dora the Explorer is the design—the product itself is made in a factory over which the company has almost no control. It doesn't manage the working conditions, environmental standards, or safety practices. As a result, it no longer controls the product itself. ...

We're not really paying for quality goods anymore—we're paying for high-priced marketing and design combined with low-wage, exploited workers producing inferior products using shoddy safety and environmental standards. Often we have no choice—we can't find products made under decent conditions by the companies that market them. Yet as long as we allow this business model to continue, we are complicit in a system whose ineluctable outcome is the poisoning of our children.

—Carl Pope, executive director of the Sierra Club, in the March/April 2008 issue of Sierra