When you find that perfect shirt on the discount rack at your favorite retailer, what is the real price being paid, beyond the number displayed on the red-sticker tag?
This is the question explored by "The True Cost," a 2015 documentary from director Andrew Morgan. Recently added to the Netflix streaming library, this film spans the globe with an eye-opening look at the hidden toll behind fast fashion and a booming apparel industry.
In April of 2013, a commercial building in Bangladesh called Rana Plaza collapsed to the ground, killing 1,130 people and injuring thousands more. The building was in part a garment factory, whose owners showed so little regard for the marginalized workers within that they ignored blatant warnings signs leading up to the disaster.
The incident was a microcosm of a much larger issue, one which reaches to every corner of the planet. Morgan points to Rana Plaza as the headline that pulled his attention to a world more grim than he could have imagined.
His documentary paints a sobering picture of the environmental and agricultural impact of a business that's increasingly focused on faster turnover and lower cost. Morgan examines the dangerous effects of genetic modification in cotton farming, and the rampant contamination of water and soil from reaping the land.
But even more haunting are the human stories. Rana Plaza is only the tip of the iceberg. In third-world countries where workers sacrifice everything and earn two dollars a day, corruption rules. Among the most memorable moments in the film are the tearful interviews and almost unbelievable stories shared by the victims of this broken system.
For a great while, this has been the dirty little secret driving the garment game. But change is coming.
At the other end of the fast-fashion craze is a crisis that's becoming too large to ignore. The True Cost is one man's journey through the underbelly of apparel, but Morgan was hardly the only one responsible for its creation. Crowdfounded via Kickstarter and individual investors, the doc shines a spotlight on human rights violations and unacceptable manufacturing processes. More and more, people are taking notice.
As the movement behind this project suggests, communities are demanding transparency in the supply chain. And that's why innovations like Inspectorio are so critical for the future of the industry. By re-thinking the quality inspection process in modern terms, this new platform leverages technology to restore trust where it is sorely needed.
When facilities are located across the world, in regions where bribing inspectors is a sadly common practice, ensuring fair and equitable working conditions -- not to mention reliable and consistent product -- can feel virtually impossible. But the virtual connection created by Inspectorio's advanced platform fundamentally shifts the existing paradigms.
By using this service, sourcing managers and quality control specialists can break through the obstacles and inhibitors that have held this system -- as well as the people it takes advantage of -- hostage. With the ability to remotely monitor and interact with the inspection process from afar, stakeholders can take a more active role.
By implementing this kind of visibility, it becomes much more difficult for unscrupulous factory operators to engage in shady and immoral actions.
In perusing the generally positive critical reviews of The True Cost, one primary complaint sticks out. While the documentary presents a number of extremely alarming issues, it does little to offer solutions. Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter, for instance, wrote that the film's content may leave you "curling in a fetal position from despair."
But there is no need for despair. The problems afflicting the apparel industry are deep-rooted and complex, but the first steps toward meaningful improvement are creating awareness and transparency.
With solutions like Inspectorio coming to market, we're finally moving in that direction.