Some time ago I saw a nice pair of jeans in a shopping centre, which were not even expensive.
However, there was no label indicating its origin, no “made in”. Curios as I am, I decided to start a small investigation, first by asking to the shop owner, who had no idea. Then I pretended to be a member of a consumer association, I listed a whole series of regulations that he has been violating so that he gave me the address of the warehouse where he bought them.
Once home, I called that warehouse, always pretending to be an exponent of a consumer association. They started immediately to tell me the story of the jeans, without any problems, as some journalists have already made an investigation before. First of all, they were made with cotton from Benin. The cotton threads are then dyed in Spain, before being shipped to Taiwan to be woven into several separate pieces (pockets, legs, etc.).
The pieces are then sent to Tunisia to be sewn with Japanese polyester threads. The factory also adds buttons, zippers, rivets which are made in Japan with Australian metals.
So the jeans leave Tunisia for a warehouse in France from where they will be sold all over Europe. In short, the jeans traveled about 65,000 kilometres: once and a half the tour of the world.
The production of these jeans is definitely “globalized”: to sell jeans at the lowest possible price, manufactures look for the lowest cost of production at all levels. The manufacturer multiplies the steps to optimize its overall manufacturing cost. Dyeing is less expensive here, buttons are cheaper there, etc.
This causes several problems: the culture of cotton requires a lot of water for countries that do not have much, the working conditions of the workers are very bad, transport consumes a lot of oil and releases greenhouse gases.
At the end the jeans are very expensive for the planet, even if they are sold at an attractive final price for the consumer.
There are so many other examples like this. Danish prawns are cleaned in Morocco and then sent back to Denmark to be marketed. Scottish langoustines leave for Thailand to be decorticated by hand in a large multinational company and return to Scotland where they are cooked and then resold.
But is it worth? Wouldn’t it be better to bring production closer to places of sale, reducing energy and hydrocarbon consumption, finally doing some good to our planet?