German discounters under pressure

Thursday, January 12th, 2012 -

A few days ago, the German department of the clean clothes campaign published a report, stating that they have found strong violations of working rights by the textile producers for the German discounters Lidl, Aldi and Kik. The campaign had a strong respond in the German press, with coverage in media such as ARDSpiegel,Sueddeutsche and Handelsblatt.

After earlier publications about their labor circumstances, Lidl and Kik promised to do better, and started to organize trainings in social standards with their producers.

At the end of 2011, a team of researchers went to Bangladesh and interviewed 162 workers. In their following publication, the clean clothes campaign concluded, that human rights violations are still daily business of the seamstresses.

I talked with Sandra Dusch Silva from Christliche Initiave Romero, one of the coordinators of the publication, and I asked her what the discounters should do. She states: “We need a structural change here. What these companies have done until now is not sufficient. The system itself has to change. They should change their buying practices. They should change the way the audits take place. They should become part of a multi-stakeholder initiative. The trainings should be optimized, until now only the middle management had access to the trainings. Also the workers should have access here.”

After the publication, Lidl and Kik showed their willingness to talk with representatives of the Clean Clothes Campaign. Until now, Aldi did not respond at all. Lidl stated to Spiegel: “We take this very serious. But the living and working circumstances in developing countries can’t be compared with European standards.”

It might be a big challenge to bring the discounters to the structural change that the clean clothes campaign demands. Because, after all, aren’t the discounters themselves the problem? as the Berliner Zeitung concludes pointy. Those who want to sell cheap have to buy cheap. That’s a matter also consumers should ask themselves: “who actually pays the price when I shop as cheap as possible?”