Diana Cannon | Week 13

It’s blog time!

I realized this week that I don’t talk that much about what I actually do in this blog, just things I’m feeling and learning. That’s all very well and good, but I’ve found that most people don’t ask me about my emotions and lessons, unless they’ve already covered the “what are you doing these days?” line of conversation first. While I have my problems with that (am I defined primarily by what I’m doing?), it is a valid question, and it’s usually the first one that I ask as well. So in the spirit of writing things that contain information that people actually want to know, this blog will be about my actual work. As a bonus, maybe in the future when people ask me what I’m doing I can just write down a url that will link them here, and then I won’t have to explain it all the time. I doubt that would work, but wouldn’t it be cool if it did? I’d be the quirky url lady. Excellent.

So! This week I’ve been mapping companies. I have a giant mega document with names of companies on it, and it’s been my job to find out all the brands and subsidiaries underneath that parent company, and then on what level they’re all governed. This may sound complicated, but, trust me, in reality it is much much more complicated than whatever you’re thinking now. As it turns out, companies are not all that straightforward when it comes to how things are run (which is one of the problems, of course: transparency). A parent company may have a document on their corporate social responsibility (“CSR”) that applies to all of its brands, and that document may be terrible and reveal that the company doesn’t care about ethical sourcing at all, but you still can’t write everything under that name off immediately. Sometimes that parent company will have bought a brand that established itself with its own CSR that it has retained and still follows in addition the overarching one. Sometimes, even if a brand as a whole isn’t governed differently, they may have just one product that is. Sometimes a product is licensed to or from another company that has a different CSR that then applies. Sometimes the company has a subsidiary with a unique CSR that applies to all of the brands directly under that subsidiary, even if it is not mentioned on the brand’s website directly. Heck, I just (finally) finished grading a company that had every single one of those complications going on at once. And it’s not like all of the information was readily listed somewhere; it took a couple days to piece it together for just that one company. Mapping is fun. I’m sure you’re all now more confused than you were originally, so I promise I’ll get to the point soon.

So why is that all important? What does it mean for the movement? It means that once all of this is worked out, we can see exactly what is being done about human trafficking in the supply chain that leads to each product we see in a supermarket. Every company will tell you that they care, but the CSR shows which companies actually care enough to do something about it. If their factories are monitored by a third party, if their workers are paid a fair wage, you can bet that will be in the CSR, because the company will want to advertise it. If none of that is explicitly stated, that probably means that it isn’t happening. After briefly skimming a lot of CSRs this week, I can tell you that it’s not happening in an awful lot of companies. And why would it if we all keep happily buying all of their products and not letting them know that we care about what they come from? The truth is that most people don’t care. Well, we need to.

That’s all I’ve got to say for this week. Until next time, friends!

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