Let’s be honest. It’s often hard to find time these days to do anything extra, outside of work and family. While many people would like to help others, other commitments always seem to get in the way. If this is you, but you’d still like to do your bit to help others, it can be done… and with minimal effort. But first, some background….
On April 24, 2013, over 1,100 people were killed in the factory collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh. This collapse killed adults and children alike who worked in the poor conditions of the factory and left many more struggling to survive, both physically and financially. The workers in the Rana Plaza who died, at that time, were earning on average, US$39/month. Survivors, and other workers in Bangladesh are now earning, on average US$68/month (with the unions attempting to get a living wage of US$104/month). The wages are improving, but they’re a far cry from the money that the clothing stores across the world that sell their produce make.
Children in Uzbekistan, as young as 10 years old, until recently, were forced into picking cotton, with Uzbekistan being a major supplier of cotton used for clothes throughout the world. Recently, the pressure put on Uzbekistan by global campaigns has forced Uzbekistan to change the way it operates, however forced labour is still happening with adults and older children.
So what can you do to help?
Global campaigns, including boycotts of particular clothing brands, have proven very effective as a catalyst for change. Basic economics teaches us that if we take away the demand, the supply will be forced to drop. Encouraging local companies that purchase their clothing from countries or suppliers that mistreat or underpay their workers, to find new manufacturers, or provide better conditions for their workers, is a powerful tool. Shop smart and be informed.
The Australian Fashion Report has been produced, both in 2013 and again in 2015 and helps “to shed some light on these questions by assessing the efforts of companies to protect workers in their supply chain from exploitation and the egregious practice of modern slavery”The report was created by Baptist World Aid Australia, who started it as a response to the Rana Plaza disaster and assesses companies and awards them grades from A to F using the Free2Work grading tool and methodology which was developed by Not For Sale and the International Labor Rights Forum in consultation with Baptist World Aid Australia.
The Fashion Report shows that some “companies that have made significant improvements include Kmart, which has released a complete list of its direct suppliers, a huge step towards transparency; The Cotton On Group, which has taken big steps forward to identify suppliers deeper in their supply chain; and H&M, Zara, Country Road and the Sussan Group which have demonstrated that they have made efforts towards paying better wages for workers overseas”.
Unfortunately, the report also showed that “many of the worst overall performers were iconic Australian fashion brands such as the Just Group (owner of Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Dotti, Peter Alexander and Portmans), fast retail brands like Ally, Valley Girl, Temt and Industrie, and low cost suppliers like Lowes and Best & Less. These companies have all received D or F grades.”
Ultimately, we’re not here to tell you who to buy or not buy from. However, being informed how some of your favourite brands do their business, and being aware of what conditions your clothes were born, is a great start to helping you make informed decisions when you purchase clothes and products; Informed decisions that will potentially, impact people on a global level.
A full copy of the report can be found here. So take a look. There are some brilliant statistics in there of companies who are doing their bit to help.
If you want to do more than what’s been suggested here, try calling or emailing the stores’ feedback or complaints contacts and let them know you are avoiding their products until they act more in line with your expectations of them.