What Brands Use Sweatshops? Be Aware of Unethical Practices

man sewing in sweat shop

Gone are the days of people making purchases without thought of the work and the possible abuse that went into making the product. The topic of sweatshops and workers’ rights is an important issue this day, with many people reaching out on social media or through political outlets to try and ensure that the people who make the products they enjoy are treated fairly.

There’s nothing worse than finding out a brand you like is using unethical practices to their advantage. As a consumer, there is a direct correlation between the product that you’re enjoying and the suffering of others.

If this is something that concerns you, then you’d be right to want to know everything about the brands you enjoy. But here’s the problem – how exactly can you find out what brand use sweatshops? Is there any way to be sure?

We break down sweatshops and list a series of large brands that are known culprits in this practice. We’ve also made sure to give you some general tips on how to avoid unethical buying practices so that you can make purchases with moral confidence. 

What Is A Sweatshop?

A sweatshop is anything from a small shop up to a large factory where employees are treated badly. This often includes them having to work very long hours in unsafe, or horrible conditions, for a tiny wage that is hardly enough to live on.

Some countries have laws against this, but that doesn’t stop Western companies from outsourcing their work to factories in poorer countries like the Philippines, Bangladesh, and China. There are even some examples of this practice happening in the United States of America.

Because sweatshops are now seen as taboo in most western countries, companies will find ways of keeping these practices hidden, which can make it very hard for the average consumer to know if they’re making the right choices with their money.

The reason why companies are so quick to use sweatshops is because of the money they save by doing this. However, there are a whole host of ethical concerns and bad side effects of sweatshops that we’re going to explore in the section below. 

sewing machine in sweatshop

Why Are Sweatshops Bad?

If our initial definition of why sweatshops are bad hasn’t convinced you, then check out our short list of reasons that will explore the topic in more detail.

Poor Or Unsafe Conditions 

Sweatshops are rife with poor working conditions. These can include unsafe machinery, not enough ventilation, unsafe hygiene practices, and many more.

Working Hours

In the United States of America, there are certain laws that stop workers from having to work inhumane amounts of hours. In sweatshops long days at very low pay are normality, and people who work there often have no other choice.

Child Labor

Sweatshops often use children and get them to work these same kinds of hours. In many western or more developed countries, this practice is seen as immoral and there are laws to stop it from happening. 

What Brands Use Sweatshops?

So now we’ve outlined some of the information about sweatshops, let’s take a look at some of the most popular brands that use them. This way, you’ll have a better understanding of where some of the products you may or may not love come from.


Big tech companies like Apple have used sweatshops for a long time, as a way of cutting the cost of making their products. A report in 2019 suggested that Apple has frequently used sweatshops and child labor located in the Congo to make lithium batteries. There are a whole host of safety and ethical concerns within this practice.

One story that is regularly told is of a factory in China where they had put up nets outside the building, to catch people attempting to commit suicide as a result of the terrible working conditions they endured. This story made the news and since then Apple has taken measures to distance itself from such practices – but it is clear that they still have links and that there are still ethical issues when it comes to products like the iPhone. 


Google Pixel devices have links to the company Foxconn, a Taiwanese company that is well known to use sweatshops to manufacture products. Because of this, Google has been complicit with sweatshop practices, meaning if you have a Google Pixel phone, there is a good chance that it has been created unethically. 


It always seems like the bigger the brand, the more chance they have of being involved in shady, unethical manufacturing processes. Nike has been associated multiple times in recent years with many forms of sweatshops, including child labor and overall unsafe conditions. More than this, Nike has recently been linked to the exploitation of Uyghur Muslims in China. 

Abercrombie & Fitch 

If there’s one clothing brand that has had more ethical issues than any other, it’s probably Abercrombie & Fitch. One of the most well-known cases of worker abuse that they have been associated with is a fire that happened in a Bangladeshi factory, where 29 workers were trapped inside and died in a fire. This tragedy comes as a direct result of their poor working conditions and links directly to the clothing that Abercrombie & Fitch put on sale today. 

How Can I Avoid Buying From Sweatshops?  

There are a few ways that you can become more conscious as a consumer. The first is to abstain from buying products from companies that have direct links to unethical manufacturing practices. The companies we listed above are well known for their links to sweatshops and child labor, so choosing alternatives is a great way to make it known that you do not agree with their practices and want them to chance.

Secondly, buying local is a good way of ensuring that you are purchasing ethical products. We know that this can be difficult when it comes to modern tech products, but for clothing, it’s certainly easier! There are countless places you can buy clothing from that will be ethically sourced.

Finally, we’d like to point out Fair Trade. This is a system that was put into place to ensure workers around the world get a fair wage for the work they do. You can find products with the Fair Trade Logo, which ensure that the product has been created by workers who are getting a good deal out of their work. You’ll find this most obviously with food, though the brand extends to other products as well – so it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for it if you care about workers’ rights!

Final Thoughts

Being conscious about the choices you make when purchasing from brands is a great way to do your bit for humans worldwide. In many of the countries where sweatshops are most common, workers are unable to speak out for fear of their livelihoods. We hope that this article has given you some idea of the common brands to stay away from, and that you now feel more confident about selecting ethically sourced products that you can enjoy without the guilt of thinking how it was made. 

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