Underhand Tactics: Toxic Labels

A film by Marie Maurice
First broadcast May 18, 2012 on France 2

Over the past ten years, the price of clothes has fallen by 13%. But who has been paying the price? Can the ethical claims of the big brands be trusted?

From the exploitation of children and workers to forcing labourers to work in dangerous conditions and violating local and international laws, it seems many manufacturers are still reliant on sweatshop models of production. In this exclusive investigation, we access the sweatshops of Bangladesh, where girls like 12-year-old Khadija work 60-hour weeks. We film inside the factories and speak to the workers.

A year after this investigation, in 2013, the Rana Plazza tragedy occured causing the death of more than a thousand people.

In Dhaka, we also meet Hanan, one of the growing number of workers whose lungs have been left in tatters after sandblasting jeans for years. Sandblasting, known to cause silicosis, is now illegal in Europe and Turkey so companies like Lindex have moved their production lines to India. We see these workers in action. At the hospital, doctors advise Hanan to stop working immediately. But Hanan cannot afford to take more than one week off work. After that, he must return to the job that is slowly killing him.

Back to Europe, we access a confidential document from Inditex, owners of Zara, which proves that all of their Indian official suppliers was graded D (the worst possible score) for blatant breeches of their ethical charter, like using child labour. We also discover that in the shadows of the accredited suppliers exist at least 2,000 subcontractors who do not adhere to any kind of charter. We confront Pablo Isla, the current president of Inditex, at the annual presentation of Zara’s financial results. How can he justify such practices at the factories producing Zara clothes?


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