Are the brands you wear paying a living wage?

Are the brands you wear paying a living wage?

Consumers can now check whether the workers who made their clothes are being paid a living wage by looking up the brand on a new website.

The Fashion Checker website will enable consumers to access real data from the supply chains of the worlds’ biggest fashion brands, including Primark and Topshop.

The website initially includes data from a survey of 108 brands and direct interviews with hundreds of workers in five garment-producing countries. As the Fashion Checker project continues, the data will expand to include more information submitted by garment workers and labour rights activists. This will allow consumers, policy makers and other stakeholders to track whether the promises and initiatives that brands claim to undertake actually contribute towards achieving living wages for workers.

The website has been launched by the Clean Clothes Campaign, who will use the data to put pressure on brands and policymakers to implement living wages for all workers in the garment industry, the vast majority of whom are women, by 31st December 2022.

While compiling the data, 93 per cent of surveyed brands failed to provide evidence that they are paying a living wage to any of their suppliers, while 63 per cent do not disclose the names or addresses of suppliers or only partially comply with the Transparency Pledge, developed by human rights organisations to get companies to publish standardised, clear information about their supply chains.

Muriel Treibich, Lobby and Advocacy Coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign, said: “Companies refuse to disclose information on their supply chain because that would mean associating themselves with the poverty wages that the workers who make their branded products receive. This lack of accountability needs to change and this is why we urgently need accurate and up-to-date data on factories and wages paid across the supply-chain.”

Demand for ethical and sustainable fashion has increased among consumers, and brands have responded with large-scale marketing campaigns and engaging sustainability reports. However the Clean Clothes Campaign reports that they continue to ruthlessly seek lower prices for goods, forcing suppliers to operate on narrow profit margins and squeezing the wages of workers who are already living on the poverty line.

Poverty wages in the garment industry are often hidden deep within complex and secretive supply chains. For decades, brands and retailers have built profits through a low-wage, labour-intensive model. Lack of transparency in the garment industry has enabled brands to distance themselves from workers and evade their responsibility to address low wages and exploitation in supply chains. Lack of transparency also makes it very difficult for workers to organise and demand fair pay for their labour.

The Covid-19 crisis has exposed the inequalities in the garment sector as brands cancel orders and impose unilateral discounts on suppliers, forcing workers into destitution. As workers with no life savings are hit by factory closures and mass lay-offs, the argument for a living wage has never been stronger.

It is estimated that 60 million garment workers are employed in the industry, 80 per cent of whom are women, who are routinely paid less than their male colleagues. Low wages have severely restricted workers from fighting for better working conditions and wages, maintaining the status quo. “Women can be made to dance like puppets but men cannot be abused in the same way. The owners do not care if we ask for something, but demands raised by the men must be given consideration. So they don’t employ men” a female worker from Bangladesh said.

Additionally, a coalition of human rights groups stated today that roughly 1 in 5 cotton garments sold globally contains cotton and/or yarn from the Uyghur Region in China, where an estimated 1 to 1.8 million Uyghurs and other Turkic and Muslim people have been placed in detention and forced-labour camps by the Chinese government. Here they are subjected to torture, forced separation from family members, and women endure compulsory sterilisation. Despite this brands continue to source millions of tons of cotton and yarn from the region.

The Fashion Checker website allows consumers to select a brand from a drop down menu. We looked at Adidas and Topshop, and got details of the location and gender mix of the factories in their supply chain, and their commitment to paying a living wage to their workers. On this latter point both scored zero.

“Brands must stop hiding their supply chains” Paul Roeland, Tech Coordinator at Clean Clothes Campaign said. “Their clothes are made by real people, in real locations. Consumers deserve to know where, and under what circumstances, clothes are produced.”

Visit Fashion Checker for more information

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