Consumer Goods & Textiles
H&M (Hennes & Mauritz), a major Swedish "fast fashion" retailer, led 30 international companies this week to commit to a new $3 billion fund to improve the safety of garment factories in Bangladesh. Watchdog organizations say the companies acted only because of external pressure by activists and workers.
Some 2,000 German employees of Amazon, the internet retail giant, walked off their jobs this week at four sites - Bad Hersfeld, Graben, Leipzig and Rheinberg. The strike action was coordinated by Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft (United Services Union), a Berlin trade union commonly known as Ver.di.
Seven activists in Guangdong province, a key manufacturing hub in China, have been detained in a major crackdown on labor rights organizers. The arrests follow a steep rise in protests and strikes at factories that have long exploited migrant workers from rural areas with low pay and working conditions.
Glencore corporation, the secretive Swiss commodities giant which has become one of the world's biggest trader of grain, oil and minerals, has hit an unlikely roadblock. The Bolivian government nationalized the Colquiri tin and zinc mine, the third Glencore asset to be seized by the state in five years.
For nearly six years Ramatex Textile and Garment Factory barred government regulators from entering industrial premises leased from the City of Windhoek. Ramatex came to Namibia in 2001, lured by the newly implemented African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA). Evidence of environmental violations finally emerged after the company absconded.
Multinationals like Benetton have tried to distance themselves from Rana Plaza, a Bangladeshi building housing five clothing factories, that collapsed last week killing over 400. Activists argue that change will only come when workers get more political support to challenge them.
Some 40,000 workers in seven Yue Yuen shoe factories in Dongguan city, China, went on strike last month to successfully demand that their employer make pension payments required under the law.
SportsDirect, a British sports merchandise retailer, has been accused of employing workers in sweatshop like conditions by Channel Four Dispatches, a UK TV program. The broadcaster aired undercover footage shot by a reporter at the company's Shirebrook warehouse in northern England.
Kalevala, a 19th century epic poem from Finland, was inspired by traditional verses from the ancient forests on the border of central Finland and Russia. Today some of the 600 year old trees around the Kalevala national park are being chopped up to make cheap furniture for Ikea, according to activists.
Shopping in a Target store, you know you're not in Wal-Mart. But, critics say that in terms of working conditions, sweatshop-style foreign suppliers, and effects on local retail communities, big box Target stores are very much like Wal-Mart, just in a prettier package.