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Price Over Ethics? Students And Sweatshops

The ‘We’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Sweatshop Clothing’ campaign has escalated in recent months with students all over the United Kingdom (UK) shedding their clothes in order to demonstrate their opposition to university clothing made in sweatshop factories.

Thirty one UK universities are currently pressuring their Vice Chancellors to join the Workers’ Rights Consortium (WRC) as a result of the sweatshop clothing campaign. By adhering to the WRC, Universities would be required to carry out regular inspections of all university clothing factories. If working conditions were found to be unacceptable according to international working standards, these universities would be expected to step in to rectify any employee mistreatment or switch to a different supplier.

Eight UK universities have signed up to the WRC, along with 220 student unions and about 180 universities in the United States. Nottingham University is however not one of the eight. In light of the sweatshop clothing campaign, Impact set up a survey to find out the thoughts of Nottingham University students on this issue.

Out of sixteen students polled, fifteen thought that Nottingham University should sign up to the WRC. Only three students answered that they were not truly aware of the working conditions in sweatshop factories and of those students who did, ten declared that sweatshop clothing is not ethical.

Eleven students nevertheless admitted that they currently buy sweatshop clothing and only three testified that they never buy sweatshop clothing. Six clothing chains were listed and only four students knew that all these shops had worked with or are still working with sweatshop factories.

Of those students that were not aware of the full list, only two asserted that they would no longer shop at these stores whereas ten students admitted that they would still continue to buy clothing from these shops.

When questioned about whether money was the reason for buying sweatshop clothing, thirteen students agreed that they would not buy sweatshop clothing if this was a financially viable option.

One student confessed that ‘as a poor student, cheap and fashionable is more important than being ethical. If I had the time to find out where my clothes came from, and the money to pay for them, I think I would try and shop as ethically as possible’.

Kateryna Rolle

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