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December 18, 2012 4 min read 0 Comments
The vast majority of our products are made in China and I'm not in the least bit ashamed to say that. When most people think of Chinese manufacturing they think of cheap flimsy goods made by under age, under paid, overworked employees that need nets to prevent them from committing suicide during their time off. I had these concerns myself when I started this company but I soon realized I had a lot of misconceptions and, in the cases where there were problems, I could actually help to change things for the better.
Lets get into manufacturing quality issues first. While I admit it is difficult to get quality goods made in China, I believe this is largely due to a history of pressure from overseas companies to cut costs, and factory owners willing to make inferior products to meet those demands. This also gets into a larger economic issue that effects most countries, that being a need for constant growth. In order to maintain that growth it helps to produce and purchase products that do eventually fail which keeps people employed to make more and sell more.
I'd argue that this is disgustingly short sighted, and for me it's not the way to do business or run an economy. Yet I have seen this mentality even in some of the most intelligent thoughtful people I know. I once had a family member working on making a new type of light bulb and one of the companies main concerns was that it didn't fail in less than ten years. So they went about trying to find a way to engineer the bulbs to fail within a few years at the most so they could continue to sell them and remain more profitable. I have never taken this route and it upsets me greatly when our products fail, which they sometimes do (albeit at slightly less than standard industry rates). I am always trying to make our products last a lifetime. This isn't easy while trying to make our products affordable, but I am trying to make this work. This means working closely with factories in China that listen and are willing to put in the time to make a very high quality product so long as we pay a fair rate.
One of our factories in China
Which brings us to issue number two, labor practices in China. While surely their has been a history of abuse (much like in the USA in the early 1900s), I think China has improved their working conditions very quickly. Sometimes due to international outrage and sometimes due to good companies simply demanding better working conditions (the later sounds like a fairy tale but I know many people in some very well known companies that can attest to this). In many ways the exploitation of China and other countries is a double edged sword. In can encourage worker abuse, but it can also bring prosperity.
Perhaps even more disturbing is the effect manufacturing has on the environment. So much of China is heavily polluted and I fear what will become of it if they do not put some protective measures in place soon. But I do hope that by manufacturing our hemp products in China, not only are we supporting China's long history of working with hemp (archaeological evidence shows that the plant was grown in China for fiber some 4,000 years ago), but we are also helping to restore it's environment. Hemp requires little or no pesticides, it actually enriches the soil and also cleans the air rather well. More hemp production in China will also free up areas used for cotton production (which requires much more area for the same fiber yield), those areas can then be used to grow food.
One of the Datsusara hemp fields in China
You might wonder why I don't simply import the hemp from China and have our goods produced in the US. The answer may surprise you because it isn't just the cost. For one, not only is it very hard to find a factory in the US that can do the manufacturing we require, but from what I have seen the conditions are actually equal to if not worse than the conditions in China. No one wants to hear that but it's true. I have visited multiple factories here and they are filled with overworked immigrants who endure long hours, chaotic cramped conditions, in terrible neighborhoods. Many of them hardly live any better than a factory worker in China if at all. It's really quite disheartening to see. While there may be some exceptions to this I have yet to see them and I suspect it's only possible for large companies that own their factories directly.
Finally, on a more personal note, I don't have any more or less compassion for a person living in China vs. person living in the US. After all, these lines we draw on the land are artificial and we are all one people traveling on a rock flying through space. The welfare of the planet and every living being on it is my concern. If I can help the environment and the people of earth by manufacturing in China, then that is what I'll do until a better option presents itself.
I realize many will not agree with what I have said here and I also know I still have a lot to learn. Please keep in mind this is just my opinion based on my experiences thus far and I might not be right about everything. I am very open to all comments and I hope we can all look to make the world a better place through an exchange of ideas on issues like this.