8:09 a.m., Nov. 19, 2010----Marsha Dickson, professor and chairperson of the Department of Fashion and Apparel Studies at the University of Delaware, spoke on Oct. 28 at an international meeting of apparel supplier and brand name buyers focused on competitive pressures in apparel supply chains.
The meeting was held at the Guangdong facilities of Esquel Group in Gao Ming, China. The Esquel Group is a world leader in the production of premium cotton shirts.
Dickson shared how the practices brand name buyers and retailers use in sourcing and purchasing apparel can negatively impact the ability of their suppliers to comply with standards found in the buyers' own codes of conduct for labor and working conditions. Organized by the Fair Labor Association (FLA), the meeting also included presentations from China-based multinational apparel suppliers.
The meeting was attended by a delegation from the U.S. Department of State led by Michael Posner, assistant secretary of state with the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, as well as by corporate social responsibility staff for Nike, H&M, adidas, VF Corporation, and others.
Commenting about her presentation, Dickson explained that “not only do the brands and retailers create some of the factory compliance problems they are trying to solve with their corporate social responsibility programs, their actions can negatively affect the quality of products and the effectiveness of future negotiations with suppliers.”
UD student Jennifer McCord accompanied Dickson on the trip, which also included meetings of the board of directors of the FLA. Additionally, the two had the opportunity to accompany representatives from VF Corporation on a factory audit in Dongguan, China where they participated in observations of the factory facilities, review of wage and benefits records, and a consultation with the factory management.
McCord, who is completing UD's graduate certificate on Socially Responsible and Sustainable Apparel Business, cited the factory audit as one of the “highlights of the trip.”
The FLA is a collaborative effort to improve working conditions in factories around the world. By working cooperatively with forward-looking companies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and universities, the FLA has developed a workplace code of conduct based on International Labour Organization standards and created a practical system of monitoring, remediation and verification to achieve these standards.
Dickson has been a member of the board of directors of the FLA since 2002 and serves as chair of the monitoring committee and on the executive committee.