New report shares good practice for advancing workers’ rights in the shoe industry

New report shares good practice for advancing workers’ rights in the shoe industry

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”3755″ img_size=”full”][vc_column_text]Press release: Tuesday 19 December 2017

New report shares good practice for advancing workers’ rights in the shoe industry

Campaigners hope to encourage progress on workers’ rights with a new review of better practice in the shoe industry.

“How To Do Better: an exploration of better practices within the footwear industry” is published today by Labour Behind the Label and the Change Your Shoes campaign.

The campaign hopes the cases and recommendations will encourage companies, federations, policy makers and other stakeholders  to learn from the work being done by others, and that this review will allow greater cooperation between workers, civil society organisations and brands in moving forward on human rights due diligence.

The practices are assessed according to how they improved five key areas of widespread human rights violations in the shoe industry: improving working conditions, occupational health and safety, freedom of association, environmental issues and transparency and traceability across the whole supply chain.

“There are plenty of ways in which companies pursue an ethical ethos, and through our research we can see how different weight is given by different companies to ensuring ecological, organic, certified materials, or fair conditions and social compliance, in production and in countries with a high risk of human rights abuses or low environmental standards. We have sought to find different practices which present an integrated approach and are transparent enough to reveal more than a simple commitment to ‘ethical’ production”, say Dominique Muller and Anna Paluszek, the authors of the report.

The report aims to share good practice, case studies and results for others to follow, and to share with all stakeholders examples of sustainable alternatives within the shoe industry. It is not designed to be used as a shopping guide nor does it attempt to rank or rate brands.

The report presents some cases of brands (including Ethletic, Veja, Sole Rebels, Nisolo, Po Zu, Pentland, !Think and Van Lier) who work towards a more sustainable supply chain and end product, as defined by a focus on ethical and fair production, collaboration with civil society organisations and Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives and/or ecological materials grown without harm for people, animals, and the environment.

There are examples of initiatives of tripartite collaboration between main footwear industry actors such as the Fair Wear Foundation, and enforceable binding agreements on freedom of association. Numerous labels and certification systems exist, private and public, which monitor conditions in the footwear industry. The report presents initiatives addressing endemic issues in the footwear industry in a collaborative and holistic way (including Austrian Ecolabel, Bluesign, IVN).

The main finding of the report is a need for increased credibility – for brands, large or small, to make credible claims to support environmental and/or ethical standards. It is imperative that these brands always include both ecological and social criteria.

“Changes are needed to ensure meaningful due diligence by companies. Without behaviour that supports change on the ground by producers – such as increased lead times, fairer pricing systems ensuring fair working conditions and living wages – there will be little improvement for the vast majority of workers and their families”, says Stefan Grasgruber-Kerl of Change your Shoes.

Read the full report and Executive Summary


New report shares good practice for advancing workers’ rights in the shoe industry

Report: How To Do Better: an exploration of better practices within the footwear industry

The report presents a short review of the better practices in the shoe industry.

The practices we found were assessed according to how they improved five key areas:
1. Improving working conditions in all parts of the production supply chain (from tanneries to factories) including employment contracts, protection of vulnerable workers, working time etc.
2. Occupational health and safety (OHS) for workers in all parts of the production supply chain (from tanneries to factories).
3. Freedom of association – including collective bargaining, cases of good industrial relations, effective resolution of industrial disputes, and support for trade unions and workers’ rights.
4. Environmental issues including the use of toxins, water and waste treatment etc.
5. Transparency and traceability of the supply chain – including public reporting of audits, suppliers, grievance mechanisms, wages etc.

The report aims to share good practice learnings, case studies and results for others to follow and to share with all stakeholders examples of sustainable alternatives within the shoe industry. It is not designed to be used as a shopping guide nor does it attempt to rank or rate brands. Cases are not examples of compliance with local, international or EU laws and regulations but are examples of significant steps to develop innovative and outstanding practices which provide positive impact for workers and their families.

Download the report: How to do Better

Download the Executive Summary

Published in 2017.

Report: The Real Cost of Our Shoes

Report: The Real Cost of Our Shoes

This report is an investigation into the supply chains of three major shoe brands: Tod’s, Prada and GEOX. It reveals continuously changing global production routes, where the mobility of capital, combined with outsourcing strategies, has created the perfect environment for continuously adapting products to consumers’ tastes and pockets, while driving working conditions and pay downwards.

Recent research by Change Your Shoes, simultaneously conducted in Italy, China, Eastern Europe, India and Indonesia, has demonstrated shoe production as a labour-intensive process subject to short deadlines and very low prices which corrode the living and working conditions of millions of workers, wherever they produce. This damaging trend has also occurred in Europe – enough to generate significant production relocation shifts back to Europe. This report, published by Centro Nuovo Modello di Sviluppo and Fair for the Change Your Shoes project, highlights this emerging trend and the reasons which lie behind it.

Download the report: The Real Cost of Our Shoes

Download the factsheet

Published in 2017

Report: Watch Your Step

Report: Watch Your Step

A Study on the Social and Environmental Impacts of Tanneries in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, India.

Every one of us wears shoes every day. But do we ever ask ourselves where the leather comes from to make our shoes? How is the skin of an animal turned into a shoe? Who does this work and under what conditions? This report takes us on a journey to the beginning of a leather shoe. The report looks at the leather industry in India and reveals the social and environmental impacts of tanneries. It provides a glimpse at the adverse conditions at tanneries in India, where people work with minimal or no protective gear, for payment below the minimum wage and no social security benefit. The workers themselves suffer from occupational diseases and the communities around the tanneries have to deal with polluted rivers and drinking water and the dumping of solid waste without regard to environmental standards and rules.


Read the main report: Watch Your Step Report

Read the factsheet: Watch Your Step Factsheet


Published in 2017. 

Tanneries in India

Tell us who made our shoes! Thousands call on leading UK brands to come clean, and to stop endangering workers

Tell us who made our shoes! Thousands call on leading UK brands to come clean, and to stop endangering workers

Campaigners with the petition outside Office Shoes in London_Labour Behind the Label

Labour Behind the Label
6 December 2017

Tell us who made our shoes! Thousands call on leading UK brands to come clean, and to stop endangering workers

  • 13,606-strong petition received in person by Schuh, Debenhams, Harvey Nichols and Boohoo.com, as well as leading brands across Europe
  • Campaigners disappointed that no response has been received from Office Shoes

13,606 people have called for leading UK shoe brands and retailers to step up and tell us who made our shoes, and to stop endangering the lives of the people who make them.

The petition, organised by Labour Behind the Label and the Change Your Shoes coalition, was delivered to 11 brands in the UK and 15 brands across Europe, on behalf of thousands of citizens who want to know that their shoes are made by people who do not risk their lives when they go to work each day.

24 billion shoes are produced every year – three pairs for every person on the planet. 87% of shoes are made in Asia, where millions of women homeworkers stitch shoes for our high street stores but endure extremely low wages, health problems and insecure work. In leather tanneries, the use of toxic chemicals and dyes can expose workers to toxic substances, including Chromium 6 which can cause asthma, eczema, blindness and cancer. When it transfers to waste water it causes harmful pollution to the environment and to those living and working nearby.

Increasing demand from Europe, and competition between brands to provide the cheapest, fastest products, means shoe workers in Asia and Eastern Europe are under pressure to produce more and more, often working unpaid overtime in factories and facing dismissal or intimidation if their try to speak up for their rights. These poor working conditions are hidden from us because most brands keep their supply chains a secret.

But now citizens across the UK and Europe are waking up to these problems, and want to know that their shoes are not harming people or the environment. Thousands of people are calling on big brands to publish information about where their shoes are made, to stop using toxic chemicals in the production process and to provide living wages and decent working conditions.

Nicola Round from campaigning group Labour Behind the Label said, “In London, Debenhams received our petition and said they are on track to publish their supplier list online this year. This is a welcome step towards greater accountability and we look forward to meeting them again soon. In Livingston, UNISON Scotland handed the petition to Schuh who said they are open to our recommendations. In Manchester we were joined by local group Stitched Up to hand the petition to Boohoo.com, who have so far not provided an adequate response to the concerns raised in the petition. Harvey Nichols in London also received our petition and we look forward to further discussions with them.

“But we are disappointed that Office Shoes declined to receive the petition in person, and have so far failed to respond to the campaign despite letters, emails, phone calls and a personal visit from campaigners. We are concerned that a leading brand appears to be actively ignoring questions from a growing number of citizens about the conditions in which their shoes are made. We will continue to try and speak to Office about their supply chain and about steps they can take to identify risks and protect workers’ safety and rights.

“We’ve handed each of these brands a shoe box containing the petition signatures, along with testimonies from workers in India and Bangladesh to show the reality that shoe workers face each day. Rizia, a tannery worker in Bangladesh, earns less than £40 a month and says she cannot sleep at night because of the itching on her skin. Selvi, a 21-year old homeworker in India earns just 6-7 pence a pair for stitching leather uppers for shoes, hard work which causes pain in her shoulders. We want brands to investigate and identify risks to workers in their own supply chains, and take steps to improve conditions for the people who make their shoes.

“The petition has also been sent to Asda, Boden, Dr Martens, Sports Direct, Primark and Very.co.uk. Boden and Dr Martens have replied to our original letter, but we are awaiting a full response from the other brands.”

In Germany the petition was handed to Deichmann, who said they will work on improving conditions for workers in their supply chain. In Poland the largest shoe company in the country, CCC, received the petition and said they will take steps to monitor their supply chain. In Italy, the 13,606 names were handed to luxury brand Prada, who have so far been unresponsive to the demands for transparency. In Spain the petition has been handed to Camper who have recently begun to publish some information about their suppliers. The petition has also been handed to four brands in Finland.

Ms Round said: ““The growing movement for transparency cannot be ignored. A parallel petition calling on global garment brands to be more transparent, including Primark, has received over 70,000 signatures.

“As a result of public pressure, major brands have this year committed to publishing supplier information, including Clarks in the UK who responded positively to an earlier letter from us about the need for greater transparency. Many brands are still not keen to talk about working conditions, and there is still a long way to go until workers in the shoe industry get a fair deal. But it’s promising that some big brands are now waking up and see that the only way forward is to listen to customers’ concerns and workers’ needs, and show they are willing to be held accountable. We will continue to work with shoe brands to improve supply chain transparency and working conditions, to stop workers risking their lives for poverty wages every day to make our shoes.”

The Change Your Shoes coalition presented the petition to MEPs in Brussels on 20 November, demonstrating that there is public pressure for change in the shoe industry, and calling on the EU to make it mandatory for companies to disclose the names and addresses of their suppliers.

Watch: Unpredictable and insecure: shoe workers in Agra, India

Watch: Unpredictable and insecure: shoe workers in Agra, India

Unpredictable and insecure: shoe workers in Agra, India



For contract workers who make shoes in Agra, work is unpredictable. Their salaries are low, they have no social security and cannot form trade unions to make their voices heard.

Sign the petition calling on shoe brands to publish supplier information and respect workers’ rights.

This video has been produced by Nazemi for the Change Your Shoes campaign.