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Note - Achieving Transparency: Use of Certification Marks to Clean Up the Fashion Industry’s Supply Chains


Shopping malls in the United States are filled with fashion apparel and accessories, attracting millions of consumers who spend billions of dollars each year. Around the world, in third world countries like Indonesia and Bangladesh, there are millions of women and children toiling in dangerous garment factories, for twenty-five cents an hour, trying to fulfill massive orders for “America.” Retailers and manufacturers should increase their use of certification marks on the labeling of their products. The corporate action required to meet these rigorous standards of certification marks used to label products will help eradicate labor problems and create transparency in the supply chains.

The use of trademark law to help solve international human rights violations is not a topic covered extensively in scholarly writing. Child labor and sweatshops are problems that have existed for more than a hundred years. There are many articles on the causes of child labor and sweatshops, but the search for a feasible and effective solution continues. The United States is a first world country, yet because the fashion industry contracts with factories that use child labor and sweatshops, it remains one of the top violators of international labor standards.

This Note proffers an effective solution that aims at the heart of these companies: their brand, which is one of their most valuable assets, and their customers, whose perception of the brand largely determines that value. The use of certification marks—which are established and enforced by a third-party organization—on apparel to certify the conditions under which the product was made would improve the lives and communities of factory workers, and provide transparency to consumers. The use of certification marks requires collaborative involvement from every stakeholder, from workers and consumers, to manufacturers and retailers. This Note proposes an achievable solution to a problem that has long faced our society.