It’s been more than twenty years since No Logo was first published. I finally read my copy more than a decade after purchasing it, during which it travelled with me as I moved between four cities in three countries. Had I read the book then, it would have been a revelation. Reading it now, I can imagine why it received the kind of acclaim it did when it came out.
There isn’t a lot that’s revelatory in that book now. That’s more to do with the subjects that I have been interested in and researching over the past few months than anything with Naomi Klein’s writing. Rather, the book makes me feel even more bothered that in the two decades since the book came out, there still remains so much to be done.
It’s true that there is a movement of businesses towards embracing greater responsibility – ask any startup founder, and they will genuinely want to build a business which is ethical and sustainable. However, the truth remains that they are a tiny minority. Big business, or rather the brands – the sort which Naomi talks about – still wield not just considerable but an almost absurd amount of influence on the way that products are created, markets function and consumers react across the world.
It is this power which makes them the biggest players who have to do their part when it comes to making the changes that are needed to make things better. This is revealed in conversations with business owners who are positioned on the spokes of global supply chains across different parts of the world. No Logo talks about the working conditions of the factory workers who make products for the brands, and on the other hand, it details how brands build their image. Possibly not in the scope of the book, but there is the invisible factory owner who fulfils supply orders for the brands and forms a key part of this equation. Most such business owners that I have spoken with realise the importance of sustainability in their operations, but for them it is simply a matter of cost. Moreover, since they operate based upon the specifications they receive from buyers, they feel it is simpler to adhere to those guidelines and limit their investment rather than spend extra towards improving their operations on the whole. This tells us two things. The first is repetitive, something we know already, that brands need to step up their game and become better at going deeper down into their supply chains to improve the state of affairs. Secondly, if we expect to see changes going down into supply chains, then there has to be some kind of pull which is created from within the industries in global supplier economies. Relying on import orders alone to improve the state of local industries isn’t going to get them very far.