Yesterday British cold water surf company Finisterre posted a statement detailing their decision to move some of the production of their apparel to china. The announcement sparked a lively debate on Facebook, with vocal and discerning opinions on both sides.
If you haven’t yet read the statement, you can see it in full on the Finisterre website here. Basically it describes how the company is looking to develop and evolve their product range as well as striving ‘to bring manufacturing closer to the raw materials and components’ stating that ‘this often means going where the technology, innovation and sustainable advancements are concentrated.’ It then explains how Tom, the company’s founder and CEO, along with Product Director Debbie, have recently spent some time in China exploring factories, with a view to moving the production of their jacket insulation into one of them. It concludes by saying that, after questions were asked and ‘new relationships forged’, a new ‘modern and skilled supplier’ in the country was found to make the product.
We’d like to start by commending Finisterre for their transparency on the issue- by publicising this shift, when many other companies may have tried to sweep it under the rug, they have facilitated an extremely interesting and important debate. We reached out to Finisterre for comment yesterday but at this time have not yet heard back.
Although varied, the reaction on social media was predominantly a critical one. Commentators main points of contention lie within Finisterre’s decision to choose China, primarily because people feel it betrays their image as a brand with ethical production as its core imperative. Recurring concerns include China’s well documented human rights abuses, environmental violations and their occupation of Tibet. An increase in air miles from producer to consumer, resulting in a much larger carbon footprint are also mentioned regularly, with people often expressing surprise as Finisterre have previously appeared to go to huge lengths to reduce the distance their product travels. Many commentators said they would no longer be buying Finisterre’s products in light of the news, with one commentator typifying this sentiment, stating that Finisterre’s ‘unique ethics and business inspiration’ were their main selling point.
Others spoke out in support of Finisterre, stating that their decision was perfectly acceptable and that in the current climate, compromises had to be made if small businesses are to grow. Such commentators argued that the shift would allow Finisterre to meet growing demand as well as enable them to access a wider market by (presumably) reducing their prices. Additionally they argued that they could then transfer the (again presumed) increased profits into evolving the business, without having to accept outside investment which would reduce their autonomy and perhaps lead to more severe compromises.
Various commentators concluded that the decision showed that the consumer base for more expensive, ethically produced clothing was not yet sufficient to support a growing company and that Finisterre, along with every other company who’s had to make such decisions are simply having their hand forced by the consumers demand for cheaper product.
Whether you continue to buy their product comes down to how much of a compromise of their ethics you consider the decision. However, as one commenter shrewdly summarises, ‘if you fail to support brands that at least try to do things better then the little good that is out there disappears’ and we think thats a very important thing to consider when it comes to going shopping for your next winter coat.