To sustain the low-cost production/high-profit strategy, fast-fashion retailers have increasingly outsourced their production, usually to less developed countries, due to the abundance of cheap labour (Ross, 2004). Unsurprisingly, this comes at a high ethical price. Frequently, the production factories are unsafe environments fuelled by abuse of the workers and hazardous working conditions of a general exploitative nature (Ross, 2004). Over the past two decades, scandals, such as GAP’s child labour case (see Teather, 2004), or incidents such as the fire of a garment factory in Karachi, Pakistan, which caused the deaths of over 300 workers (see ur-Rehman et al., 2012) have increasingly gained consumers’ attention and prompted a global demand for change (Gordon & Gordon, 2005). One recurring method to accomplish such change is to boycott fast-fashion retailers (Joy et al., 2012) in an attempt to punish unacceptable behaviour of the target and pressure for change (Braunsberger & Buckler, 2011). In the case of fast-fashion, the common motivation is to voice displeasure and force a company, amongst other things, to change its exploitative production practices (Hiquet et al., 2018). Regarding the notion of boycotts, the academic debate seems to primarily focus on explaining boycott behaviour of the actors (usually the consumers) (see, for instance, Hiquet et al., 2018; Klein et al., 2004; Shaw & Tomolillo, 2004) instead of the effects boycotts may have on the target, in this case, a company or its workers in less developed countries. Hence, this essay will question the effect of boycotts by shining a light on its potential impact on the developing countries which are home to the factories and workers catering to fast-fashion retailers.
This paper will assess the implications of a boycott scenario for the factory workers and developing countries in general. In order to do so, this essay will focus on a specific case, namely Bangladesh, as the country is a prime example of many developing countries whose industry heavily relies on the fast-fashion sector and garment production. Drawing upon this analysis, a claim may be made about the effect of fast-fashion boycotts and what other potential remedies could be sought out.