The global garment industry generates 1.3 trillion EUR of business each year, and employs 75 million people worldwide. The garment value chain is one of the most complex production models globally as well as an important value chain in economic terms, both within the EU and in partner countries, providing employment opportunities to millions of workers, especially women. However, the industry faces a wide area of sustainability challenges such as lack of enforcement of labour rights, unhealthy and unsafe working environments, use of hazardous chemicals, poor working conditions and low wages, water pollution and unsustainable use of resources. This session will bring together different stakeholders and offer a platform to highlight country-specific, regional and global initiatives. The objective will be to facilitate dialogue and encourage collaborative actions in view of tackling social and environmental challenges in global garment value chain.
Photo Nader Adem&ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative
- There is broad consensus in the garment industry that workers are not earning a living wage.
- Collective bargaining is one route towards achieving sustainable and continuous wage growth in the garment industry.
- A signed collective bargaining agreement can trigger the commitment of international brands and open up a space for trade unions.
- Educating consumers about how their clothes are produced is important.
- New rules might include mandatory due diligence and reporting at the EU level by brands.
The panel debated how to create jobs and growth and enhance social and environmental sustainability in garment value chains. The global garment industry generates about EUR 1.3 trillion of business each year and employs 75 million people around the world, a large proportion of which are women.
There is a broad consensus in the garment industry that workers are not earning a living wage, and many factory owners take an authoritarian approach. As a result, a considerable cultural shift is needed in industrial relations.
One potential mechanism to help ensure sustainable and continuous wage growth is industry-wide collective bargaining. This is a route that Action Global Transformation is pursuing by holding discussions with national actors in countries such as Cambodia, Myanmar and Turkey. A signed collective bargaining agreement can trigger the commitment of international brands and open up a space for trade unions.
Fashion Revolution is a volunteer-led, consumer-focused global movement calling for a fairer, safer and more transparent fashion industry. It was set up in the aftermath of a factory collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 when more than 1,000 garment workers were killed. Within months of being set up it had volunteers in 58 countries. The organisation wants to see people buying clothes that have been produced by people working in safe conditions, paid a living wage and for production to be environmentally sustainable.
To give an idea of its scale, on its fifth anniversary in April 2018, Fashion Revolution held 1,200 grassroots awareness-raising events in 100 countries. It informs and educates consumers about the core issues via magazines and podcasts.
Another idea that was discussed is to set a legal framework with binding rules; rules that then need to be properly enforced. These rules might include mandatory due diligence and reporting at the EU level by brands.
One interesting idea that is already being used is to draft pre-written letters that consumers can send to brands urging them to be transparent and asking them what they do to support decent wages and collective bargaining. This practice exerts pressure on brands directly from consumers.