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Price pressure and the hunt for profit is killing China’s Pearl River | Jesper Hansson

Some of you might have seen a post I made some weeks back. I was walking through a Giant Supermarket in Singapore and was amazed to see men’s denim jeans on sale at just SGD 3 (USD 2.40) per pair.

As a consumer and at first glance, it would be an amazing opportunity to get some cheap jeans. However, if you looked into what other price is being paid to produce them, perhaps you would think twice about buying them.

The fact is that these jeans are most likely produced in Guangzhou in China. To be more precise in township of Xintang, which is nestled in the north eastern corner of the Pearl River Delta. The Pearl River has sustained the Chinese civilization for ages, but over the last few decades, civilization has not been kind to the river. It has become a dumping ground for debris, agricultural runoff and industrial pollution.

The township of Xianting is also known as the blue jean capital of the world. The Chinese government estimates that more than 200 million pairs of jeans is produced by approximately 60 different foreign brands. This is almost half of the estimated 450 million pairs sold annually in the United States.

What consumers probably don’t realize, is that the production of jeans is poisoning China’s water supply. Tons and tons of waste water, a cocktail of dye, bleach and detergent, mainly coming from coloring the jeans, is led straight into the Pearl River by the manufacturing companies.

People used to swim in the Pear River but that is impossible today. The water is toxic and polluted to a degree where it can be seen on satellite images.

Besides polluting the environment and poisoning the water supply, workers perform their duties without any form of protection from the chemicals used and are suffering from the side effects.

So, what seemed to be a really good price a few weeks ago in the supermarket, might actually not be so ‘awesome’ after all. As consumers we are all looking for great bargains, discounts and the lowest possible price. This is the way we think and act. However killing our environment and hurting people in the hunt for the lowest possible price, is not a sustainable way to carry on. We have to think about protecting the planet and demand that people are protected and safe, when doing their jobs. Only after that will I personally start to consider whether I am looking at the best price possible. The next time you shop for jeans, keep the pictures of pollution in your mind and think whether your jeans is produced in Xintang – the blue jean capital of the world.

* This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

Jesper Hansson

Owner/Managing Director, Core Pricing Pte. Ltd.

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