Why made-in? social security, education, health, human rights, democracy
shows how we score ourselves on Ethical Consumer Magazine's checklist, but it wouldn't fit on a shoe label. A quick web search finds several sites with vegan shoe recommendations, but they tend to be in US style: they won't talk about social security or a national health service and they think it's OK to recommend something from China with it's bottom-of-the-scale human rights record and no unemployment pay. In theory they'd recommend North Korea which is, apparently, where some T shirts are made. Then they get rather precious about some obscure environmental benefit to their Not Made In shoes. Some of them earn commission off Amazon, and we'll be on Amazon some time, but it is an employer that sacks staff by turning-off their entry passes,, and it does make money by charging 10% to retailers, so it suits the ones with a high margin like those North Korea T-shirt importers.
A simple free way of finding good vegan shoes is to check where they're made.
From that, and for a European country, you can glance at the social security system in that country if there is one, alongside spending on health & education which can be quoted as a number. You can see how that country scores for human rights and for democracy and whether the country belches CO2. If you have a pet like a dog, it most likely wants you to promote human rights as well as animal rights, if it forms opinions like that. The same goes worldwide except for Human Rights. I thought I'd found a score for human rights that would fit on a shoe label, but it looks as though it's only available for countries near Europe. I hope I am wrong. Plase let me know via shop at veganline dot com of any score for every country's human rights record, that is simple enough to fit on a shoe label.
Veganline's main pages about suppliers are links to government standards in each country that we buy from, mainly in Europe and the UK.
Veganline.com/info/why-made-in shows how to check the statements and put similar ones on your own web site if you sell online:
International Social Security Organisation country profiles - ISSA.INT/country-profiles - are messy at a glance but good for comparisons
http://veganline.com/info/why-made-in#social-security links here
- https://ww1.issa.int/node/195543?country=1001 made in UK
- https://ww1.issa.int/node/195543?country=786 made in Albania
- https://ww1.issa.int/node/195543?country=854 made in France
- https://ww1.issa.int/node/195543?country=884 made in Italy
- https://ww1.issa.int/node/195543?country=949 made in Poland
- https://ww1.issa.int/node/195543?country=976 made in Spain
- https://ww1.issa.int/node/195543?country=950 made in Portugal
- https://ww1.issa.int/node/195543?country=827 made in China P R
Maybe there is a web page somewhere that gives each country a score for a good social secuity system, simple enough to put on a shoe label, but the nearest found so far is a score for similar budgets - health and education.
There's an argument that you should buy from countries with fewer health services, education, or social security such as pensions, if it's cheaper. The argument is that it helps the country get richer so that it can afford those things if it wants in the future. Bangladesh for example. A country that has a lot of rich people in it already, but a mass of large poor families that do not get richer over the generations.
Turnover of garment factories in Bangladesh has risen while factory wages have fallen in the twenty-teens. Meanwhile, decision-makers tend to be among the rich who do very well out of the system. They won't want to risk changing it by pricing Bangladeshi exports out of the market, and the government there pays export subsidies rather than paying for an NHS or setting up a national insurance system. Another solution would be for trade blocks to impose tariffs on goods from badly-run countries like Bangladesh, to protect a welfare state at home. It could allow free trade from countries that have a welfare state, but tax goods from those without; change would be easier for people in Bangladesh.
CIA.gov/the-world-factbook quotes how much of GDP in each country, including your shoe purchase, goes on
Each country has a "people and society" heading listing figures like "school life expectancy" and "birth rate", the things that are probably low and high in countries without a social security system, or education and health spending. The effect of a high birth rate among the poor is to keep each generation poor, or poorer than the one before. Factory wages are falling in Bangladesh.
Freedombarometer.org has scores that could fit on a shoe label for votes, news, courts, and human rights. Then, right on the same page, they award scores for the opposite: freedom to import goods that are cheaper for lack of... votes, news, courts, human rights, and the ones they don't mention. They don't mention health spending, education spending, or the one that nobody mentions which is social security. This is something to do with the kind of people who fund indexes of freedom or work on them; you don't find a neat human rights score on the Amnesty International web site for example. There's no neat social security score anywhere (please get in touch if you know of one).
Ethical Consumer Magazine put it like this:
Rating countries is obviously going to be politically fraught, and it’s impossible to avoid political bias altogether. Many “human rights” indexes aren’t subtle about it – the Freedom of the World index, for example, produced by the US think tank Freedom House, asks the question below as one of many that determine the level of “freedom” in a country: “does the government exert tight control over the economy, including through state ownership and the setting of prices and production quotas?”
To them, the democratically controlled NHS and set prescription prices indicate a tendency towards an oppressive regime.
You, like us, may disagree with this analysis.
Democracy Index is on Wikipedia. The same page lists flaws in the system. The Economist is a magazine for the kind of people who publish Freedombarometer.org . It chooses a jury of experts to think of numbers that fit on a shoe label. If you log-on to their site you can see a slightly more up-to-date score than the one on Wikipedia.
CO2 per unit of electricity figures come from the International Energy Agency web site. Each country page has a row of boxes near the top, and the two on the right are CO2 produced and electricity produced. Divide one by the other to get the number in kg per kw/h, or Terrawatts per Gigawatt Hour if you include all the noughts.
There's another figure for CO2 used to generate electricity for the grid and to make shoes, which varies more and is harder to look up.
Emissionfactors.com requires a login and some experimenting to find a figure and allows three searches per day.
https://press.davidnieper.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/UON-FINAL.pdf quotes the grid figures from a free online summery for one year:
Airmiles are anyone's guess but slow fashion made close to home doesn't need them
8% of apparel transport is by air, according to one estimate, but this contributes 90% of apparel transport CO2 and anyway a lot of CO2. (source: https://archive.is/wip/O3KmL ) The trouble is knowing which goods come by air: you can guess for strawberries but not for shoes. This is a quote from Addidas -
Fuel used in transporting goods from where they are manufactured to the selling markets creates carbon dioxide emissions, which are a major contributor to global warming. We aim to minimise the environmental impact of transporting our goods by reducing our use of air freight, the form of transport that causes the greatest emissions of carbon dioxide.
They tried working-out their emissions and publishing them through the 20-teens, as though they could cease to use air freight, but that didn't happen; the trials, the top-ups, the samples and returns still went by air. For example in 2007 -
Compared to previous years, increased air and truck shipments in 2007 were partly caused by order re-allocations to meet delivery deadlines
Addidas stopped putting reports on their web site after 2016, but usually make some shoes close to where they're sold so their shoe average is better than their clothing average. That supports a guess that firms with a fast turnover of styles and no production close to home are going to use more airfreight, even if they are as well-organised as Addidas.
There are rules of thumb to say how much CO2 is produced per thousand kg per km on a long-haul flight (.59377 ) but you have to log-in to a site to see the figure and it's no help till you know the proportion of deliveries by air
Another point on the Addidas page is that they've reduced "volatile organic compound emissions" on long mass-production runs of shoes. Factory staff shouldn't have to sniff glue all day. This simply catches-up with European laws under an EU directive years ago.
Boatmiles don't produce much CO2 per shoe. Guangdong is 20,509 km from Felixtowe (source: shiptraffic.net, in miles), producing 0.018kg of C02 per 1,000 kg per km (source: Addidas quoted on greenrationbook.org.uk ). That's 0.369 kg of CO2 per 1kg of footwear. If an inspector from Europe visited a factory in China that would cost thousands of times more CO2.
Nike's inspector says she doesn't visit shoe factories; auditing reports is a freelance desk job done in London that she described in an interview in the twenty-tens. If she asked too many questions in China or Vietnam she might get arrested for nose-poking, which she puts in a more polite way. Her interview puts opposite points of view to this page so it's worth a read. Since that interview, she's started her own online shop - Arthur and Henry - which puts a more messy and down-to-earth view. Shopkeepers can't afford to get all their undies audited. She even gets some of her stock from the UK.
Addidas https://archive.is/4ECEu - not linked as slow to load; emissionfactors.com below requires a log-on
https://emissionfactors.com/ef/factor/297656 0.00891 kg CO2 per tonne-km by sea - so about 9 grammes - and
https://emissionfactors.com/ef/factor/294946 0.59377 by air, counting just the long-haul part of the journey.
Addidas are quoted as using 18g per tonne-km sea-freight in Greenrationbook, probably including the return journey
The 8%-by-air figure is quoted in the David Niaper study from a European Union document https://archive.is/wip/O3KmL which quotes an obscure trade magazine article estimate of 20% freight by air in 2006, which in turn is hard to interpret, so the 8% figure is hard to pin down).
Vegan shoes on this site are chosen for mundane reasons like availability as well as ethical ones. UK safety boot suppliers closed, for example, but there was a safety boot supplier that was easy to deal with because they had a wholesaler in the UK as well as selling from Italy, which sounded like a good country to buy from. They also have a vast array of solar panels on their warehouse roof. Then they moved production to Albania, and it would have been hard to find another supplier and hold two generations of stock in different styles, which is hassle for retailers. So who knows about Albania? Eventually, we found ways to look it up, right at the top of lists of countries that we can link to, without having to pretend to be experts or keep up to date. We also have tracking information for the Italy - London part of the journey, which is usually by TNT slow road courier. TNT provide CO2 emissions tracking and next time a batch comes, we'll check the small print to see if it applies.
Slipper production moved to Spain from the UK for similar reasons. The UK public was lead to buy artisan imports from the far east as an "ethical" choice or from China as a business choice. There wasn't much interest in the remaining cheap slipper suppliers, and rubber became hard to buy cheaply in bulk. The wholesaler that distributed their slippers got the same designs made in Spain, delivered by road. Like the safety boots, they are slow fashion made in designs decades-old, so there's less pressure for rushed orders to come by air.
With luck, retail customers will buy for the same mundane easy reasons but build the idea of slow fashion and EU production into their choices.