Rip Curl accused of ‘slave-labour’ practices

rip curlAustralian surfing brand, Rip Curl, is in hot water after a Fairfax Media investigation led to findings that the company had sold goods produced in ‘slave-like conditions.’

A report from the Sydney Morning Herald revealed the surf-wear brand had its 2015 line of ski clothing manufactured under “slave-like conditions” at a North Korean factory named Taedonggang Clothing Factory near the country’s capital Pyongyang.

The clothes were shipped to retail outlets with the “made in China” tag.

“Australians would be shocked to hear that an iconic Australian brand with roots on the surf coast of Victoria has been manufacturing its surf wear in North Korea,” said Oxfam Australia chief executive Dr. Helen Szoke.

Szoke said Australians care about where their clothes are made and how. “We have seen this time and time again by responses to events such as the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013, which killed more than 1,100 workers and injured 2,500 more.”

In reply to the accusation, Rip Curl pointed a finger at one of its subcontractors for the practice, adding they were aware of the issue “but only became aware of it after the production was complete and had been shipped to our retail customers.”

“This was a case of a supplier diverting part of their production order to an unauthorised subcontractor, with the production done from an unauthorised factory, in an unauthorised country, without our knowledge or consent, in clear breach of our supplier terms and policies,” Rip Curl’s chief financial officer Tony Roberts said in a statement.

But Szoke said the responsibility lies solely on the company. “Rip Curl has no excuse for not tracking clothing produced within its own supplier factories.”

“Companies are responsible for human rights abuses within their businesses – not only morally but also within United Nations guidelines on the responsibilities of businesses when it comes to human rights,” she said.

Szoke said other Australian brands, including Kmart, Target and Coles, have taken steps towards providing transparency by publishing, the exact names and locations of supplier factories.

She added companies such as Cotton On and Forever New are moving in this direction and it’s high time that Rip Curl and other surf brands caught up with the pack.

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  1. Peter posted on February 23, 2016

    Rip Curl isn't totally to blame for this, there is a bigger picture, too often companies are pushed to produce cheap items and not necessarily for more profits but just to be able to stay competitive in the market place. The public are just as much to blame as they continue to push for cheaper items even at the determent to quality or product shrinking in groceries. Oxfam Australia chief executive Dr. Helen Szoke can say that Australians care and want to know where the clothes are made, however I believe the majority do not, this is evident by all the cheap clothing that is around in the marketplace, clearly this has to be made at a price and by overseas extremely cheap labour. I would prefer to pay more, receive better quality and also stop product shrinkage, if the majority of the public thought this way then the retail landscape would be different and product shrinkage would be a thing of the past.

  2. Ross Elliott posted on February 23, 2016

    Peter I can't say I agree with you here. A company makes a choice about what is important to them. In this case I would say Rip Curl buyers are hunting for the lowest price for their item, or pushing a factory to hold or achieve a price, so the factory outsources. If Rip Curl took the position that factory fundamentals are priority one and price is second, and then they bothered to do in-line inspections of their goods being made, then this wouldn't happen. This is a result of poor manufacturing process oversight and nothing else. Someone has profited from the outsource to North Korea, either the supplier or Rip Curl or both. To pin this back on the consumer is naive. The customer will always search for the best price. It is we who should have complete control of the manufacturing process. Ross Elliott Snowgum

  3. James posted on February 24, 2016

    Agree with above comments by Peter. Customers, large Public Businesses and Governments are creating this world of poverty - Poverty is now a business for companies to increase their profits... But Rip Curl would have paid very cheap prices, so would have know. The question is did those cheap prices convert to savings for their customers or profits for their company? Working with the public for over thirty years they don't care about where the items are made they never cared about plastic bags either they all walk around with "enviro" "safe the plant bags" filled with plastic bags but this is what they think they should be doing walking around with "enviro" bags because this was pushed on to them; and they really don't care about cheaper items. Saving, cheap has also been pushed on to them by Advertising, commercials and Current affair programmes that continue to screen segments re. how to buy cheaper, how to ask for a discount then put mothers on to create an illusion that this is what mothers are all about and editorials for i.e. Woolworths, Coles, Kmart who are competing against each other - It is them that are creating a world of cheaper items in the name of competition and profits not because they believe that is what the consumer wants. Advertising manipulates people easier today than ever before. You only have to look at the Current affair programme last night it was an obvious editorial for home products for Woolworths (the article was about buying two of the same item to receive them cheaper) - Just on that, how cheap is anything if you don't need it? and how many families no longer eat fresh as they are freezing the items they don't need ...

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