Is it exploitation or empowerment?



The Telegraph, 2012

This argument has been mentioned for years now, big companies attempting to gain a competitive advantage at all cost  which is basically an organization’s edge over rivals, this strategy was developed by Micheal Porter that claims the two key sources of competitive advantage are low costs and superior benefits.

This thinking has lead large organizations to move their facilities from western to developing countries as they seek to gain a competitive advantage on low labour cost but at the same time reducing poverty in these countries.


Factory in China


Revolutionary Frontline

It is said that through ethical consumerism people have the right to make free choice about what they do and don’t want and have a right to use their power in the marketplace by forcing companies to employ higher labour standards for workers in poor countries, this would ultimately increase cost of producing a product in developing countries, which would reduce the number of companies relocating production facilities and deny people the jobs they want and need.



International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

This argument goes further where observers think that if ethical consumers have patience in the push for implementation of the decisions they believe and are passionate about, the hand of market demand and supply will eventually improve working conditions and that once enough factories have opened in a country unemployment will reduce and workforce will get better off, while employers would have to compete with each other to raise standards and attract staff. 

Ranvir Nayar states that ” the adoption of Western standards would mean that the cost of production in the developing countries increases manifold; this would take away their entire competitive edge”.

Regardless of everything can ethical consumerism and their evolving issues on third world and developing countries labour, do more harm than good, this has some form of validity but it should not be the only basis to this case.

Reference: The Rough Guide to Ethical Living, by Duncan Clark.

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