Emmett Dulaney: We are the World Trade Organization

Mon, 2012-08-06 10:56 -- univcomm
August 6, 2012

Given the recent excitement over the Olympics and the ruckus over the uniforms provided for our athletes not bearing the union label, I decided to do a bit of a striptease at home after class one evening. It wasn’t much of a tease, but it did involve removing all the clothing that I wore and deemed suitable for teaching an evening class in.

Both my dress shoes and corresponding brown socks bore the Chaps label and were made in China. My Haggar slacks (“khakis,” as many call them) were identified on the label as being from Bangladesh, while the brown leather belt that held them up says it was “handcrafted” – not “made” – in Argentina. My dress shirt, a Pronto-Uomo – was from Indonesia and the Hanes T-shirt it hid was made in Guatemala. My underwear is Fruit of the Loom, and I always associate that brand with Warren Buffet since his company, Berkshire Hathaway, owns it. In my mind, you can’t get more American than Warren, but the underwear was made in Honduras. That left only my Seiko Kinetic watch to look at and it is identified as requiring two countries for its manufacturing: the watch itself is from Japan, while the band that came with it is made in China.

Laying these items out on the bed as if it were a map of the world, it appears that I walk about wearing the labors of those in Asia, Central America and South America. Wanting to throw some Europe in to feel Olympic, I reached for my Reeboks with the British Union Jack on them, only to read the label and learn that they were made in Vietnam. Apparently, we aren’t the only ones who have farmed out production.

It is worth noting that “made in” does not mean that everything from start to finish was done in that country – it only identifies the country in which the final assembly took place. In their book “Being Global: How to Think, Act, and Lead in a Transformed World,” Angel Cabrera and Gregory Unruh examine a pair of Levi’s jeans – something many would equate with being “American” more than I do Fruit of the Loom. The cotton for a normal pair of jeans is usually grown in Peruvian or Ugandan fields, then shipped to China for finishing and sent to Malaysia to be spun into yarn. The yarn goes to Thailand where the fabric is woven, and then to Singapore to be cut before it is sent to Indonesia for sewing. It is sewn together with thread that comes from Malaysia and to that product you have to add a label which comes from India, a zipper which comes from Hong Kong, and rivets – which come from Taiwan. When you get done, you have those American jeans ready for market.

One uniform may have made the news, but this wasn’t something that happened as a one-time fluke. Whether we are cognizant of it on a daily basis or not, we are each walking commercials for a world gone global.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, music, nursing, and theology. The Falls School of Business is one of Anderson University’s largest academic departments offering eight undergraduate majors as well as MBA and DBA programs. The school is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) and is a member of the Christian Business Faculty Association (CBFA).

Columns from Anderson University’s Falls School of Business are published Tuesdays in The Herald Bulletin. Tuesday’s columnist is Emmett Dulaney, who teaches marketing and entrepreneurship.