There are a few ways to create products these days. You can make them ethically yourself and/or with a small team in your own country. You can source them online from a factory in China, India or a developing country to have them manufactured (this includes branding them). You can be a big conglomerate that places huge orders at a manufacturer most likely in those same countries. Or you can do it a bit differently like us by running your own studio in a developing country (in our case with a local NGO to create rural jobs and support community projects).
Essentially you can choose smaller scale vs mass-produced. Working with a factory/manufacturer/supplier doesn’t often provide much insight into the supply chain at all; that’s why transparency is so lacking across pretty much every single product out there for both materials and labor.
Hourly rates don’t even begin to scratch the surface of what we need to consider. For example, most factories work huge hours without a lot of paid leave in the year. Even if the sustainable place next door gets paid the same in salary, their lifestyle can be vastly different. That’s the same for all of us – two people working for a $50k salary but one doing 40 hours a week with 6 weeks annual leave and the other doing 70 hours a week with 2 weeks annual leave creates two very different lifestyles. In Cambodia where we have our product studio, we have a really high amount of paid leave we provide so that also drastically changes what salaries actually mean.
So, we’ve tried to break down these costs of a single product to highlight the differences and where we are at as a world. We massively undervalue ethical & sustainable products. Though we expect a lot of cheap stuff, we also have another tendency to overvalue unsustainable items when it has good branding or a big audience around it. We’ve highlighted some key calculations and encourage you to buy less, but better.
Read the full article and see the exact cost breakdown.