Labour Behind the Label is unable to provide a list of ‘best’ or ‘worst’ brands or retailers simply because the causes of and solutions to poor conditions in the garment industry are not that simple. This is not about one or two ‘bad’ factories supplying a handful of companies that just don’t care. The root causes of bad working conditions are as much, if not more, to do with the way the fashion industry operates than the intentions and desires of any individual company. This means violations of internationally-recognised minimum labour standards can be found in almost every factory, workshop and living room in which garments are produced.
All companies therefore have a responsibility to eliminate these violations from whichever supplier they choose to buy from, to ensure that their relationships with suppliers don’t contribute to poor working conditions and to work together to tackle the root causes of workers rights’ violations throughout the fashion and sportswear industry.
So are all companies as bad as each other?
Not exactly: Companies do vary in terms of what policies they have and what action they have taken so far. Some companies are more committed than others to address these issues, but none has managed to stamp out all – or even most – of these abuses of labour rights. All companies could be putting a lot more time and resources in.
Those companies who are making the most progress have acknowledged that there are labour rights violations in their supply chains and begun to work collaboratively with trade unions and labour rights groups to address them, increase the amount of information they disclose publicly (including the names and locations of production sites) and examine how their core business practices impact on working conditions. All of these things are means to an end; while they are positive signs of progress, the issues that need to be addressed are deep-rooted, and no company can claim to have come near solving them.
This might all seem a bit negative, but in fact there are reasons to be positive. Many companies have made progress towards adopting a more open attitude and showing greater willingness to improve conditions in their supply chains. Worker and consumer action has been a key factor in driving this change.