Labour Behind the Label activists demand an end to Killer Heels at London Fashion Week (c) Anthony Wilks

Labour Behind the Label
19 September 2017

Activists demand an end to Killer Heels at London Fashion Week

As London Fashion Week 2017 comes to a close, activists from campaigning group Labour Behind the Label were there to highlight the deadly use of toxic chemicals putting workers lives at risk in the tanning and production of leather shoes. Dressed in boiler suits, masks and gloves, protective work-wear that many tannery workers are denied, campaigners raised awareness of the harmful processes used in making leather shoes.

Chromium tanning accounts for approximately 85% of all shoe leather tanning, and the mishandling of tanning agent Chromium III can result in Chromium VI being produced, a severely toxic and carcinogenic substance which can cause lung cancer, asthma, skin ulcers, nose bleeds, fevers, headaches and eczema in workers. India is the worlds second largest producer of footwear, with leather shoes a key part of their industry, and the UK is one of the main importers of Indian leather shoes. Many tanneries in countries such as India and Bangladesh ignore health and safety regulations, demanding that workers handle dangerous chemicals without training, offering no protective clothing so workers are forced to wade in vats of chemicals with their bare skin.

The UK is one of the world’s largest consumers of shoes, with each person buying an average of five new pairs per year. The near total lack of transparency throughout the shoe industry means it is virtually impossible to buy a shoe on the high street and trace its origins. With UK brands, including Harvey Nichols, Schuh, Office and Boohoo, providing little to no information on where or how they source their shoes there is little evidence that workers rights have been respected. Brands must step up in terms of transparency and provide information on their supply chains to guarantee that workers rights are protected.

Nicola Round, Campaigns Director at Labour Behind the Label said: “We need to put an end to killer heels. Workers in tanneries risk their lives daily to make leather for our shoes, using toxic chemicals without any protection or safety regulations in place, and suffer with cancer, skin and respiratory conditions as a result. We need urgent reform in the shoe industry and greater transparency in order to protect workers. No one should risk their lives making shoes. We call on UK brands to move away from the use of dangerous chemicals and to publish information about their suppliers, respecting the rights of all their workers and showing that they are not afraid to be held accountable for working conditions.”

Sign the petition calling on UK shoe brands to Step Up and take responsibility for working conditions


For more information on the Change Your Shoes project, please see: www.labourbehindthelable.org/campaigns/shoes/

Change Your Shoes is a partnership of 15 European and 3 Asian organisations. We believe that workers in the shoe supply chain have a right to a living wage and to safe working conditions, and that consumers have a right to safe products and transparency in the production of their shoes.

Labour Behind the Label is the UK platform of the Clean Clothes Campaign. The Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) works to improve conditions and support the empowerment of workers in the global garment industry. The CCC has national campaigns in 15 European countries with a network of 250 organisations worldwide.

Please see www.labourbehindthelabel.org and www.cleanclothes.org for further information.