One year after Rana Plaza
On April 24 2013 more than a thousand people died in the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Dhaka (Bangladesh). In the following year, more than 150 brands signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, in which they consent to third-party audits of their Bengal suppliers. Unfortunately the accord does not reach further than Bangladesh and working conditions are equally poor in other low-wage countries, such as Cambodia and China. Our recent FeelGoodFashion Report suggests that there are huge differences in the extent to which fashion brands are transparent about the working conditions in their supply chain. Some brands publish a supplier code of conduct and audit information on their website, others provide little or no information.
Results of the research
We have analyzed 368 of the most best-selling fashion brands with regard to policies on working conditions. Only half of the brands mentions to use a supplier code of conduct in which they demand for a casino online safe workplace and no child labor. In addition, the majority of code of conducts (60%) appeared to be incomplete. International Labour Organization (ILO) defines several labor standards, such as maximal hours of work (48 hours 12 hours overtime), one resting day per week, correct payment of overtime, and the right for official employment. A minority of the code of conducts contained all ILO standards. Remarkably: Price tag and labor policies seemed to be unrelated to each other: Several of the more expensive brands, such as Hugo Boss, MaxMara, and Ralph Lauren received a low score for their labor policies.
A supplier code of conduct is a first step for brands to move towards better working conditions. The second step is monitoring the implementation of the code of conduct by the suppliers. Various known brands, such as H&M, McGregor, ONLY, Tommy Hillfiger, Zara, WE, Timberland, Nike, and Puma, report about these monitoring processes on their website. A selection of these brands are also a member of a collective initiative that aims to improve labor conditions. For instance, McGregor is a member of Fair Wear Foundation, Tommy Hilfiger of Fair Labor Association and Inditex (owner of Zara) of Ethical Trading Initiative. Despite these efforts, it remains a challenge for brands to identify and monitor all their suppliers. In 2013, only 9% of the brands monitored more than 80% of their suppliers.
One of the most pertinent problems in the garment industry remains the low wages. Few brands demand that their suppliers pay fair wages to the garment workers. H&M promises to change that by 2018. For now, conscious consumers can only turn to specialized (online) stores to find A-label brands such as Armedangels, Pants to poverty, Freitag, Nudie jeans, Bleed and Mud Jeans.