You probably don't know who makes your clothes. The scary thing is, the retailer that sold them to you may not know, either.
A yearlong study of factories in Bangladesh by New York University's Center for Business and Human Rights found that many retailers can't be sure which factories make the products they sell, often in immaculate shops half a world away. That's because manufacturers sometimes farm out work to local factories that aren't registered with trade associations or the local government and that operate away from the eyes of regulators, the study found.
That means many retailers are just as in the dark as shoppers about whether a piece of clothing was stitched together by workers earning rock-bottom wages in some of the world's most decrepit, ramshackle factories. Or whether it was made with child labor. Or if workers sewed under sickening working conditions. Or if there are cracks in the factory's walls that could trigger a catastrophe like the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory complex in Bangladesh, which killed more than 1,100 people last April.
"We're hiding," the owner of a tiny unregistered factory in Bangladesh, the world's second-largest exporter of ready-made garments, told investigators. "Those customers won't like my factory because it's a tin shed."