The global fashion industry is a major source of employment, money, and growth for both developed and (especially) developing countries. Therefore we can say that the garment industry has a very big impact when it comes to improving economies and people’s quality of life. On a social level, the garment industry’s supply chain has brought jobs for many people living in conditions of poverty; but through history it has also led to the inclusion of women into paid work. This context has been one of the major causes driving emancipation and increasing gender equality in many developing countries, since it has allowed women from low-income families to find work and earn a living wage.
Nevertheless, even if it’s important to acknowledge these positive gains, there are still a lot of unjust practices going on in this context. The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh in 2013 exposed the issues related to garment industries working conditions in a dramatic way, awakening the conscience of both fashion brands and society by making them begin to wonder where the clothes were coming from.
Defenders of garment worker’s rights
Numerous organizations have risen up over time concerned about human rights violations affecting employees around the world and specifically in the garment industry. Such organizations are working persistently to improve the lives of garment workers around the world and to assist in creating a better future for them as soon as possible. Focusing on humane supply chains, exposing thoughtless practices, and exerting pressure on major actors in this context to make things right. Many of these organizations are actively urging businesses and governments to take responsibility for employees and citizens all around the world, particularly in Southeast Asia, Africa, Central America, and Eastern Europe.
Their common aim is not only to take immediate action on the issues related to labour conditions, but also to set a standard for the industry, to show brands how fair working conditions should look like, and how worker rights should be protected.
Let’s dive right into the 3 key organizations that are tackling ethics within the fashion supply chain and continue reading about how you can gain new insights from their work.
Clean Clothes Campaign
Founded in 1989 in the Netherlands, the Clean Clothes Campaign is the oldest and most famous organization dedicated to the improvement of garment workers labour conditions. Since the beginning they have created a global network (of over 235 organizations operating in over 45 countries) dedicated to improving working conditions and empowering workers in the garment and sportswear sectors around the world. In order to pursue their goal Clean Clothes operates on different levels trying to educate and bring awareness in companies, governments, organizations of workers and consumers.
On their website you can find a lot of useful information about labour standards, as well as how you can support their work. They can be a great inspiration for new strategies for your business to create more awareness on social issues and ethics.
For more information check out their website: https://cleanclothes.org
The Fair Wear Foundation
In 1999, Fair Wear was created with the mission of helping create a world where worker’s human rights are respected, where change is powered by freedom of association, where the global value chain is a source of safe, dignified, and fairly compensated labor. In the context of garment production they focus in particular on the sewing, cutting and trimming processes, which are the most labour intensive parts of the supply chain.
They collaborate with a network of 140 brands, working in the fashion industry and committed to finding a fairer way to make clothes. Together they build practical solutions and show how improvement can be realized. Fair Wear conducts checks at three levels to gain real insight into member’s performance:
- At brand level, to see which current business practices and management decisions are likely to cause problems down the line;
- At factory level, to support better labor conditions and inspecting these working conditions;
- And finally, by hearing directly from garment workers.
These rigorous assessments increase the credibility of their member businesses and serve as a springboard for actual transformation.
If this method is something that could be interesting for your business or you just want to explore their methodology and find new ideas to apply to your company, you should definitely visit their website: https://www.fairwear.org
The Center for Sustainable Fashion
Based at London College of Fashion (LCF), the Center for Sustainable Fashion was founded in 2008. They started as a community of designers, educators, communicators, and researchers dedicated to producing well-founded and highly-regarded research, with an emphasis on human and ecological resilience in design as an art and in business. In order to take action in provoking, challenging, and questioning the status quo in fashion they work with universities, businesses, and other organizations all over the world to take a pluralistic, systemic approach.
They are aware that the battle for a more ethical fashion industry must begin in the schools, with educators informing the next generation of industry leaders and designers about the hazards that exist under current conditions. Reason why they focus on education through workshops, mentoring, design practice, critical debates in different communities.
Take a look at their website to discover about all their initiatives: https://www.sustainable-fashion.com
These three examples are just some of the many organizations that are committed to creating a world where workers rights are respected and cultivated. For those of you who want to start making improvements in their overall business ethics, these organizations can be a great source of inspiration. They provide free resources on their website and we recommend contacting them directly, as they are very supportive and open for collaborations.
At the end of the day there is a lot you can do from your current place, whatever phase of business you are in. The first steps are already in your hands: ask critical questions, stay informed and lead by example.