business news in context, analysis with attitude

Really good piece in Fast Company that goes behind one manufacturer's made-in-the-USA claims, exploring the nature of accuracy, trackability and transparency.  An excerpt:

"When you buy a product with the words 'Made in USA' splashed on it, how do you know the brand is telling the truth about where it was really manufactured?

"That’s the crux of a new class action lawsuit against New Balance. The case, filed by five consumers, argues that the sneaker brand misleads customers by marketing many of its shoes as locally manufactured when, in fact, as much as 30% of the content of these shoes are actually produced overseas using foreign labor. Beyond misleading customers, this goes against the regulations established by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that companies can only label their products as 'Made in USA' if they contain 'no - or negligible - foreign content'."

The story notes that New Balance traditionally "has argued that it’s not misleading consumers because it includes tags that make it clear that it considers a product to be made in the USA if 70% of the product is made locally. It also points out that it has four factories in New England where it hires around a thousand American workers to make its shoes. (We reached out to the company for comment on this story but did not receive a response by the time of publication.) The fact remains, however, that New Balance’s internal definition of what it means to be American-made goes against the legal definition established by the FTC."

You can read the story here.

KC's View:

As a longtime New Balance customer, I can say that I've never felt deceived by the company - the labels and packaging always have been fairly specific in the way described by Fast Company.  But … it would seem that the company's practices, transparent though they seem to be, are at odds with the FTC's rules.

Interesting story, I think … and mostly it points to the need for a transparent and nuanced system that gives consumers all the information they might need or want about products' provenance.