Last month I blogged about trying to get info from shoemaker Earth about its factories in China (link).
Why would a company with such a progressive image, I wondered, not be happy to verify its glowing assertions about the safety and labor-friendliness of its overseas contractors by having those operations inspected by one of the many third-party certifying organizations that exist for this precise purpose?
Why, in short, should consumers trust any corporation to effectively police itself?
(Since my original post, I’ve learned that problems still exist even when such certifiers are used, but I remain convinced that auditing is the best way to go.)
Five and a half weeks after my inquiry (which went unanswered, so I sent two more emails and left one phone message), Earth customer service finally responded. After disingenuously claiming to have received only my first email (I know that at least one of my later messages went through, because I got an out-of-office reply), the representative wrote:
We do not have specific answers for these questions, and I’d rather not open up the conversation.
We hold our facilities in China to the utmost standard both environmentally and socially. Our shoes are manufactured in a controlled, clean, and safe environment that is inspected, not only by our top executives, but also by larger US corporations. Our factory and offices are cleaner than most US plant and our workers are living and eating far above Chinese standards. Ten years ago, our workers were walking or pushing used bicycles to go to work, today several of them have their own cars. In short, US companies are pushing the envelope and raising up the bar for a better living and better environment. Thanks to companies like us, we influence changes and improve people’s life. I hope this information helps.
A few thoughts that might get Earth more grounded:
1. If you don’t want to have a conversation about these issues, you shouldn’t use them as a marketing ploy.
2. You can’t make claims about something that consumers care about and that has an effect in the world and then refuse to back them up.
3. Cutting-and-pasting unverifiable cherry-picked anecdotes does not reassure informed customers asking crucial questions. Rather, it insults them, invites claims of greenwashing (etc.), and pisses them off.
I followed up (politely) asking what “larger US corporations” means. What type of corporations? Fellow shoe manufacturers, perchance?
Evidence suggests I should hear back, oh, maybe by the end of September.