The National Union for Students (NUS) has been criticized by Ethical Consumer Magazine for supporting five companies which were given poor ratings, according to factors such as animal rights, human rights and environmental impact.
Since 1989, the Ethical Consumer Magazine has been offering tips for ethical buying and producing consumer reports on a range of goods. Their aim is to “Discover the truth behind the products we buy and the companies we buy them from.”
The National Union of Students, a union dedicated to voicing the needs of Britain’s students, supports companies condemned by the Magazine such as Amazon, New Look, Matalan, Miss Selfridge and ASOS. Amazon currently offers NUS-extra card holders 50 per cent discount on student membership. However, as widely know, Amazon has been found guilty of tax evasion, poor worker’s rights, the sale of products of endangered cetaceans and leather, and countless other controversies. For instance, in 2014 Amazon’s UK Subsidiary paid £11.9m in corporate taxes, a rate of less than 0.3%. Ethical Consumer have singled out Amazon to be the subject of a global boycott.
The fashion companies supported by the NUS were granted poor rankings by Ethical Consumer because of the poor working conditions in their factories. For example, Matalan was one of the companies involved in the Rena Plaza disaster in April 2013 in which a Bangladeshi factory collapsed, killing 1127 workers and leaving 2437 injured.
Ethical Consumer condemn New Look for the use of Uzbek raw cotton, due to widespread use of organised child labour and forced adult labour in its cotton cultivation. ASOS, which offers 10% for students, received a poor rating of just 7 out of 20 for its use of real fur and due to the oppressive manufacturing conditions in China and India. Likewise, Miss Selfridge scored just 7 out of 20 and New Look were only a point up with 8. Miss Selfridge doesn’t require suppliers to have a code of conduct for worker’s rights and equally as contentious, it doesn’t have an environmental policy.
Given that such companies get unrivalled brand exposure online and across union campuses, the National Union of Students have a huge responsibility to select appropriate organisations to promote.
Hypocritically, the NUS are frequently involved in charitable campaigns surrounding workers’ rights and environmental issues.
If the NUS aim to voice the concerns of students, they might want to start looking at their own track record.