From fast fashion to electronics, these days it seems like almost everything is made in China. Why is that?
Well, it’s simple. At the time when China offered the lowest cost of labor and the largest available workforce, companies from around the world invested heavily in China. Over time, China grew to become the world’s top manufacturing center. They provided cheap goods in such quantity that the world was soon hooked. Nearly everyone on earth now owns something made in China.
China is the best at what they do. They dominate the world of manufacturing for good reason. They run massive scale manufacturing operations with efficiency, allowing for decent quality products to be produced at shockingly low cost.
However, nowadays the China “brand” isn’t always good for business. The geo-political and ethical positioning of China is becoming increasingly incompatible with modern brands looking to promote ethical and sustainable production.
Consumers and Suppliers Must Reduce Their Dependency on China
It’s a tough spot we’re in. We’re addicted to cheap goods.
But we’ve also created a situation where we are dependent upon our greatest adversary in terms of politics and Western values. If you’re paying attention to the direction we’re heading, it’s clear that there is a major conflict heading our way, even if it may be unclear exactly what form the conflict will take.
Any type of conflict will have a devastating effect on global trade. Supply chains will be severely disrupted, costs will skyrocket and we’ll all be wishing we had just done something about it sooner.
Now’s the time to consider rebuilding a supply chain that is not dependent on just China. But what is the best alternative to China?
An Ethical Alternative to China
Manufacturing in Indonesia is a Smart Choice
According to the Freedom House 2018 survey, Indonesia is by far the most free country in Southeast Asia with a score of 64%. Vietnam comes in at 20%, Thailand at 31%, Cambodia at 30%. Among other manufacturing powers in Asia, Bangladesh comes in at 45%, Pakistan at 43% and China brings us the rear at a staggeringly low 14%!
When you’re exporting your hard-earned cash to an overseas clothing manufacturer, you’ll want to know that your money is going toward improving the lives of real people and providing them with healthy economic opportunities, rather than having your money fall into the wrong hands.
Choosing to manufacture in Indonesia is a choice you won’t regret. Not least of all because your factory visits will be amazing work trips into the heart of some of the most interesting cultures on the planet.
The people are warm and welcoming. When you visit the factories the people will be happy to see you. From their broad smiles you’ll know that you’re not looking a “sweatshop”, these are proud workers who take their jobs seriously. Their working conditions are generally good, the hours are reasonable and they go home to their families at night. If you choose to manufacture in Indonesia you can be proud of the fact that you are contributing to the development of job opportunities in a free market economy.
Other Alternatives to China Manufacturing
Indonesia is just one of many options. We chose Indonesia to base our operations for all the reasons above and we depend on it as a primary resource, but in truth there are many, many other options.
The best approach when manufacturing anything is to find a manufacturing solution that requires the smallest footprint. If you’re American, for example, something made in the USA might sound like the most sustainable option. It very well might be… IF the materials are also from the USA. But what if the materials all come from China and are shipped to the US, then manufactured using imported machinery. All powered by foreign oil.
Suddenly, you can see that a product imported from Mexico, for example, and made from materials of Mexican origin would logically have a much smaller carbon footprint overall.
The point being, we need to take a look at the BIG picture when we talk about environmental sustainability, ethics, and everything else we care about. Right now, almost any alternative to China is a good alternative. Our over-reliance on China is becoming a big problem, as is our addiction to cheap goods.
For that reason, here at Prototype, we are actively developing relationships around the world. Our goal is to source cotton products from a cotton-producing region, wool from a wool producer, and so on.
We also strive to provide a choice of where you have something made. If you have a relationship with a country, like Ecuador, for example, we want to support that relationship by offering products from Ecuador that are every bit as sustainably created as products from any other region we work in.