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Tell your MP: we need a new law to hold brands to account!

Tell your MP: we need a new law to hold brands to account!

 Tell Your MP to   back a new law to   hold brands to   account 

From poverty wages, to union-busting, from unsafe factories, to gender-based violence – UK brands don’t just ignore exploitation and abuse in their supply chains, they profit from it.

It’s time to tip the balance of power. 

Garment workers and campaigners around the world have been fighting for decades to improve conditions and hold big fashion to account – but we need more tools to strengthen our hand. 

Across the EU, new laws are being introduced that will make it more possible for workers everywhere to hold companies accountable for human rights abuses and environmental harms. The UK is shamefully lagging behind, and it remains too difficult for garment workers around the world to bring cases against UK brands in UK courts. 

We urgently need a UK law to hold fashion brands accountable when they fail to prevent violations of the rights of garment workers who make their clothes. 

At the end of last year, Baroness Young of Hornsey introduced a groundbreaking Private Member’s Bill in the House of Lords: the Commercial Organisations and Public Authorities Duty (Human Rights and Environment) Bill. This is the first time a UK law mandating companies to prevent human rights abuses and environmental harms in their supply chains is being debated in Parliament, with the second reading taking place on 10 May 2024. We need to make sure all parliamentarians know how many of us support this law.

If enough of us demand a new Business Human Rights and Environment Act, our elected representatives must listen!

 

Write to your MP

To send the message, put in your postcode to find your MP:

11 years since the Rana Plaza collapse factories are safer but the root causes of tragedy persist

11 years since the Rana Plaza collapse factories are safer but the root causes of tragedy persist

11 years since the Rana Plaza collapse factories are safer but the root causes of tragedy persist

“MEPs have made history today as this law represents a groundbreaking change for how large companies operating in the EU, including fashion brands and retailers, will now have to do business” said Muriel Treibich, Corporate Accountability Coordinator at the Clean Clothes Campaign “yet, its impact will unfortunately be limited as many intermediary and smaller (but still large) operators will be able to escape their responsibilities and continue operating with impunity.” she added.24 April 2024 will mark the 11th anniversary of the fashion industry’s worst tragedy: the collapse of the Rana Plaza building, killing 1,138 people. The catastrophic death and injury toll was caused by a deadly mix of fashion brands ignoring dangerous factory conditions, poverty wages, and centrally, constraints on workers’ ability to organise collectively. While unprecedented progress has been made to make factories safer, the brutal crackdown on workers’ rights still unfolding in response to protests to increase the minimum wage has shown that apparel brands producing in Bangladesh are still failing to ensure that the basic rights of their workers are respected.

  • The disaster provided momentum to push brands to sign a binding agreement with unions that has made factories in Bangladesh demonstrably safer and prevented mass casualty incidents. Yet major brands like Levi’s, IKEA, Amazon and others refuse to heed calls from workers and campaigners to join.
  • In 2023, international brands refused to meaningfully support an increase in the legal minimum wage to a sustainable level for workers and their families, locking in poverty wages that are among the lowest for garment workers globally.
  • As workers exercised their basic rights to demonstrate against the undemocratic wage setting process, brands failed to prevent predictable and premeditated repression, giving tacit approval to violent tactics that left four workers dead and many more injured.
  • Today, brands like H&M, Inditex (Zara), Next, C&A, among many others, remain passive while their supplier factories keep workers and union organisers under threat of arrest, thanks to baseless criminal complaints against tens of thousands of unnamed individuals associated with the protests .
  • On 24 April 2024, the European Parliament will vote on the proposed Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, which is a step towards holding brands accountable for human and labour rights violations in their supply chains. These recent events in Bangladesh show how much work global fashion brands still have ahead of them to live up to these new legal human rights due diligence obligations

The Rana Plaza building, housing five garment factories, collapsed on the morning of 24 April 2013. The building had been evacuated the day before as workers had pointed out dangerous cracks in the walls. While the shops on the ground floor remained empty that day, the garment factories refused to lose one more day of production and forced workers into the factory using the threat of withholding wages. Struggling to survive on poverty wages and without a labour union to collectively defend their rights, most workers entered their factories that day. This catastrophe was both predictable and preventable. Brands knew about the danger of the country’s multi-story buildings yet refused to take action. They also knew that the coercion implicit in poverty wages severely limited workers’ choices, and vitally, that the limitations on the fundamental rights to organise left workers exposed to serious risks.

Safer factories

Unions and labour rights groups had been raising these issues for over a decade and had developed a binding agreement for brands and unions to sign to make factories safer. Despite years of campaigning and dialogue with Bangladesh’s largest buying brands, only two brands signed this agreement before the collapse. Other brands continued to rely on the same social auditing system that had failed to prevent many previous disasters, and failed to recognise the risks at the Rana Plaza building. Making measures unavoidable, a mere three weeks after the disaster, a group of major brands signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

This agreement and its successor agreements (the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry) are the reason that Bangladesh, which frequently saw mass casualties in garment factories before 2013, has not faced similar disasters since. Improvements ranging from installing fire-fighting equipment and removing locks from doors, to large-scale renovations of structurally unsafe buildings, as well as worker trainings and a complaint mechanism have made a real change – especially in the first seven years of the Accord in Bangladesh, before employers started to exert undue influence over the programme. The Accord’s success is acknowledged by the 200 brands around the world that have signed the consecutive Accord agreements, including some of the world’s largest and most well known brands like H&M, Uniqlo, Inditex (Zara), and PVH (Calvin Klein). Yet, there continue to be major brands which continue to hide behind self-checks or industry-led initiatives without union participation. These includes Levi’s, IKEA, Kontoor Brands (Lee, Wrangler), Decathlon, Tom Tailor, VF Corporation, Walmart, Amazon, Columbia Sportswear and others.

Amin Amirul Haque, President of the National Garment Workers Federation (NGWF) said: The refusal of brands like Levi’s and IKEA to sign the Accord means that they willing risk their workers’ lives for the production of their clothes and towels. They continue to rely on the same corporate-led systems that failed to prevent the Rana Plaza collapse. It is an absolute shame, just as it is absolutely shameful that there are about a dozen brands that made their products in the Rana Plaza factories and never paid any compensation to the families of the 1,138 workers who were killed and the over 2,500 workers who were injured. This is more than shameful, it is a double crime: they are guilty of death by negligence and of leaving the affected families without compensation.

However, the Accord only inspects and covers the final tier of garment production. This means that workers deeper in the supply chains of existing Accord signatory brands could also be risking their lives while toiling in textile mills and dyeing facilities without the same safety measures being taken. It is important that the Accord’s signatory brands take steps to ensure also these facilities are brought under the purview of the Accord. 

Poverty Wages

The Rana Plaza disaster was however caused by more than an unsafe building. One reason that workers felt compelled to enter the Rana Plaza building was the threat to withhold wages, which are so low that workers often have significant debt. The negligible minimum wage increases of 2013, 2018, and 2023 maintained the poverty wage levels, with the five year intervals meaning that inflation further chipped away at workers’ ability to put food on the table. The most recent, highly undemocratic wage review process of 2023 yielded a new minimum wage of 12,500 BDT (113 USD), little over half of what unions were asking for based on cost of living calculations. This is a mere fraction of what would constitute a living wage.

Unions and labour rights organisations repeatedly reached out to brands during this process to urge them to speak out in support of the workers’ demands and ensure their supplier factories that they would increase the prices paid for their product to meet the increase. Brands, whose power to enforce low pricing directly influences the wages and conditions at their supplier factories, kept their commitments vague and failed to instil any trust among factory owners that a wage increase would be financially feasible. Only after the wage announcement, brands like H&M announced to do the bare minimum by meeting the newly declared poverty wage into its pricing, and received praise from media around the world for this, showing how low the bar on brands’ behaviour is. This downward price squeeze limited the wage increase, and now even seems to affect implementation of this very limited wage increase. Several factories, including suppliers to major international brands, are reportedly failing to implement the new wage – meaning that workers don’t even receive the poverty wage they are legally entitled to.

Babul Akhter, General Secretary of the Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation (BGIWF) said: “The new minimum wage is little over half of what unions were asking for during the wage setting process. That demand was based on basic cost of living calculations and still far removed from a real living wage that could properly sustain a family. The new minimum wage is a poverty wage that keeps workers on the brink of destitution for the next five years.”

 

Freedom of Association

Workers did not remain silent as a new poverty wage was decided through a process that excluded their voices. Unions started organising for a wage proposal meeting workers’ cost of living early in 2023. In October 2023, when employers shared a dismal wage proposal, many more workers took to the streets in protest, growing stronger again in November when the country’s wage board made its final recommendation of only 12,500 BDT (113 USD). At the behest of industry, the police, army, and special units were deployed to repress the spontaneous demonstrations. Employers failed to protect workers from the clear risk of deadly violence; rather as tensions rose, many closed their factories and sent workers into the streets without notice or assistance to workers, exposing them to serious danger. Protesting workers and workers with no intention of protesting were both met with violent repression and arbitrary use of force, which caused four deaths and many more injuries.  

The four workers who were killed (Rasel Howlader, 26, Jalal Uddin, 40, Anjuara Khatun, 23, Imran Hossain, 32) produced for international brands including H&M, Zara, C&A, Bestseller and Walmart. The deaths in brands’ own supply chains reflect a grave failure of due diligence and to use economic leverage to protect workers. Given the identical outcomes and worker death in 2018, the violence surrounding protests was both premeditated and predictable, yet brands took no meaningful action prior to or during the minimum wage process to prevent a tragic repeat. Nevertheless, each of these brands have refused to provide compensation for the families beyond the paltry compensation of around $4,500 that families have thus far received, which falls far short of the widely accepted compensation approach established in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster (based on ILO Convention 121).

Police complaints and legal cases, filed against workers and union leaders by factory owners and the police, led to arrests, long term detentions, and criminal charges. As the vast majority of the charges are against “unnamed workers”, the threat of legal prosecution now hangs over the heads of any worker who steps out of line and could suddenly be “identified” as being part of an ongoing case, as has already occurred with several prominent labour organisers. Labour rights organisations have urged the major international brands in whose supply chains factories have filed such cases to use their leverage with suppliers to ensure charges are withdrawn. While this has led to the withdrawal of several cases and others in progress, most brands have failed to act, allowing around two dozen cases to remain active. Brands like H&M, Inditex (Zara), Next, and C&A have the leverage to ensure these cases are dropped, but have shirked their responsibility.

Rashadul Alam Raju, General Secretary of the Bangladesh Independent Garment Union Federation (BIGUF) said: “Trumped up legal complaints against unnamed workers instil fear among workers and organisers, because anyone could be identified as a culprit in a case. Several union organisers, including from my union, have spent time in prison for an alleged crime that happened while they were at the other side of town. Brands like H&M, Zara, and Next need to do all in their power to ensure these complaints are dropped.”

The legal cases are particularly egregious because they have a further chilling effect on worker organising in Bangladesh. Despite some initial improvements in the years directly after the collapse, it remains exceedingly difficult to register a union in Bangladesh and violence and harassment against organisers are common. In June 2023, Bangladesh Garment and Industrial Workers Federation organiser Shahidul Islam was beaten to death after leaving negotiations with the Prince Jacquard Sweater factory about wages. Earlier this year, two organisers of the Akota Garment Worker Federation were attacked and hospitalised after leaving a factory they were trying to organise.

 

New laws to hold brands accountable

The Rana Plaza collapse opened the eyes of citizens and policy-makers in consumer countries to the responsibility of corporations in relation to human and labour rights abuses in their global value chains and the need to regulate company behaviour. Activists, trade unions, and labour rights groups highlighted the need for binding obligations on companies and increased corporate accountability.

These calls were first successful in 2017 when in France the first ever due diligence law was passed, which was nicknamed the “Rana Plaza law”. Germany followed suit in 2023. In the UK, new research shows widespread support from the general public, business, and politicians from various parties for new laws requiring companies to prevent human rights abuses in their supply chains, and a groundbreaking Private Member’s Bill of this nature, the Commercial Organisations and Public Authorities Duty (Human Rights and Environment) Bill, will have its second reading in the House of Lords on 10 May.

Meanwhile, in the European Union, exactly 11 years after the Rana Plaza collapse, in a landmark vote the European Parliament has approved the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive on 24 April 2024. This EU Directive will oblige companies to carry out a due diligence process in their supply chain, including upstream value chain and direct and indirect business relationships to identify, prevent, mitigate, and remediate negative impact occurring in their value chain. In some cases, companies could also be held legally accountable for their actions and impacts on workers. The proposed legislation will only cover the largest companies active in the EU, but it nevertheless is an important step to hold brands accountable for their impact in global value chains and will contribute to preventing new disasters from happening.

 

Muriel Treibich, Lobby and Advocacy Coordinator for the Clean Clothes Campaign says: “For the first time over the last decade, this day of commemoration will also be a day of hope. On the day where we remember the lives lost in the Rana Plaza collapse, this vote represents a significant milestone for workers, communities, and activists worldwide and a major step for corporate accountability.”

 

Brands’ complicity to the recent crackdown in Bangladesh, shows that they still have a long way to go to fully respect human and labour rights in their supply chains. To fulfil their commitments and carry out an appropriate due diligence process as newly codified in the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, in the Clean Clothes Campaign we believe that international fashion brands must:

  1. Require their suppliers to immediately withdraw all criminal complaints they have filed against workers related to the protests; 
  2. Require any other retaliatory action taken against workers by their suppliers to be reversed, including reinstating workers that were dismissed to the same level of seniority, with full back pay;  
  3. Publicly condemn the wave of repression against Bangladeshi garment workers, highlighting support for workers’ fundamental rights to association and assembly and an immediate dropping of all mass charges against workers; and 
  4. Ensure that financial compensation consistent with international standards is provided to the family of workers killed in their supply chains;
  5. Use their leverage and adapt their pricing policy in order to ensure payment of living wages;
  6. Sign the International Accord and all relevant country programmes, and within the Accord actively engage for effective implementation of the programme and expansion to more factories within the own supply chain.

 

Resources:

– For more information on the crackdown on workers’ rights and inactivity of brands, see https://cleanclothes.org/news/2024/bangladesh-crackdown. The Clean Clothes Campaign network has reached out to 45 brands sourcing from factories that filed cases against protesting workers. The brands with most of these cases in their supply chain are H&M, Inditex, and Next. These cases have real effect on workers and organisers and the fact that many of the accused are “unnamed” allows for these baseless complaints to be used against any worker or unionist. In a particularly egregious case, two union organisers were charged with attempted murder and jailed for 66 days, even though none of them were named in the report or even in the vicinity of the factory on that particular day. This shows how the threat of unnamed charges hangs over every worker and organiser in Bangladesh. This criminal complaint, which alleges vandalism, arson, and the death of a worker, is still active against several named and over 700 unnamed people and has led to the imprisonment of a dozen people. Brands with leverage on the factory that has filed this complaint are Bestseller, H&M, Aldi South, Next, Gap, Kmart Australia, and Tom Tailor. Several brands, such as KIABI, Esprit, Kmart Australia, Decathlon, and Target Australia have refused to take responsibility entirely and not responded at all. 

– The Rana Plaza Never Again timeline documents the most important events and developments in the garment industry in Bangladesh of the past 11 years and includes key dates in the years before the Rana Plaza collapse: ranaplazaneveragain.org/timeline.

– Even though mass casualties in factory incidents are a thing of the past in Bangladesh, smaller incidents continue to happen and cost people’s lives. It is important that the scope of the Accord is expanded to also cover facilities deeper into brands’ supply chains, such as spinning mills and dying facilities. Read more: cleanclothes.org/keep-all-workers-safe

– More information on the International Accord can be found on their website. A list of which brands that did and did not sign is available here. A petition calling upon brands to sign to Accord is available here.

– Actions and commemorations across and in cooperation with the Clean Clothes Campaign will take place in Chicago (16 April, photos), Strasbourg (23 April), Brussels (24 April), London (24 April, anna@labourbehindthelabel.org), Netherlands (various locations and dates, carson@schonekleren.nl), Barcelona, Bilbao/Vitoria, Granada, Pamplona, Madrid (24 April) and other locations across the world. 

-In 2022 a pilot Employment Injury Insurance Scheme (EII or EIS) started in Bangladesh, meant to ensure that compensation is guaranteed for families of workers killed in the workplace and for those injured at work. This pilot is meant to lead to a law covering all garment workers. CCC encourages brands to participate in the pilot, but this is not sufficient. Firstly, brands should commit to fair pricing explicitly factoring the cost of EII into the purchasing price. Secondly, brands should commit that, once the law is in effect, they only source from suppliers participating actively and faithfully in the scheme, according to the law. Thirdly, brands should sign a legally binding agreement to this effect. 

For each and every mum, Tesco?

For each and every mum, Tesco?

VK Garment workers

worked hard

for their children too 

Tesco claims to care for all families and to celebrate the care that mothers all over the world provide. But the families of 130 migrant garment workers in Thailand are forced into further poverty and debt because Tesco refuses to do the right thing. This is their story.

99-hour working week, no sickness or holiday pay, one day off a month, no access to your own passport, sexual harassment and abuse – these are just some of the horrific conditions Burmese migrant workers had to endure making clothes for Tesco at VK Garment in Thailand. 

 

This Mother’s Day as you look through the rows of greeting cards and are thinking of how best to express your love and appreciation for your mum, think about Thi Thi Aye who was forced to work under these gruelling conditions while pregnant – and still lost her job. 

Tesco tells us it celebrates each and every mum. But what about the mothers who were working with no day off and still weren’t making enough to send their children to school?

These same mothers are now in heavy debt and their lives and the lives of their children are put on pause as the workers struggle to get justice, 3 years on.

The former VK Garment workers need urgent action. They need Tesco and Intertek to accept responsibility and settle the lawsuit against them so they can begin to rebuild their lives.

Let’s show Tesco we truly care for each and every mum – even those they’d rather we didn’t know about!

 

What do the workers say?

“The date was 21 August 2020. In the morning they asked us to sign a document which we refused to sign and then they said be outside of the compound after 4pm. That document, we didn’t understand it because it was in Thai and they wouldn’t translate it even though we requested this. 

I had a lot of emotions. I was thinking how can the employer discriminate and take advantage of us workers, this makes me really sad. The factory didn’t even want to pay us minimum wage and now they dismissed us and also ruined our chances of being employed elsewhere by sharing our photos. 

At the time I was pregnant and so I was desperate to find work because of my child. I had to borrow money so that I could go to the hospital for checks up during my pregnancy. VK Garments knew I was pregnant when they dismissed me. 

We have a lot of difficulties. My husband still can’t find proper work so as a daily wage worker he has to work in the rice field or if there’s no work there he does construction jobs here and there. I’ve recently started working at a restaurant but I don’t get minimum wage and it’s not a secure job.

I need to borrow money to take care of my boy – he’s two and a half years old – and for the rent and food. I feel really sad sometimes because we don’t always have enough or proper food for my child. 

I skip meals sometimes and have reduced my food intake for some time now. Even though I want to eat I need to stop because of the situation we’re in. Even when we have money, from my husband’s wages, I can’t buy things to eat because there’s a lot of debt, so we spend this on the interest rate. We’ve had to rely on a vegetable that you find here on the roadside (water green, a type of plant). We have fried that for food.

My future is my child and I would like to provide for him with better education and solve the debt issue very quickly. My boy is almost three years old. Maybe next year he’ll be ready to go to primary school. I want to make sure he gets a better education. It’s the only way we can escape from the current difficulty.”

Thi Thi Aye, 22 years old, mother of one

Former workers of Neo Trend remain empty-handed no thanks to NEXT

Former workers of Neo Trend remain empty-handed no thanks to NEXT

Former workers of Neo Trend remain empty-handed no thanks to NEXT 

Former workers of the Neo Trend factory in Turkey remain empty-handed after 14-month-long engagement with Ethical Trading Initiative and member brand Next. This is their case.

Turkish garment factory Neo Trend Textile closed officially on 1 July 2021 due to a loss of orders in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The factory had put workers on suspended leave in Spring 2020, and workers had been told that they would be paid for this leave as per government regulations. Workers were also protected from being dismissed during this period because the Turkish government had introduced a ban on dismissals for the duration of the COVID-19 lockdown. However, after the final order for the factory’s main buyer, Next had been completed by a small group of workers towards the end of August 2020, the factory owner emptied out the factory and sold all assets. When workers returned to work at the end of the lockdown in July 2021, the 104 workers of Neo Trend found the factory closed and were left empty-handed without their owed severance, notice and other allowances.

After finding that meetings between Next and worker representatives, and later with Clean Clothes Campaign member Labour Behind the Label, did not result in any offer from Next to compensate the workers, CCC members working on the case (CCC Turkey, Labour Behind the Label) decided to report this case to the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). The ETI is based in the UK and is what’s known as a multi-stakeholder initiative consisting of trade unions, NGOs and businesses, of which Next is a member. All businesses that have joined the ETI agree to adopt ETI’s Base Code, a set of common standards for labour conditions based on the International Labour Organisation conventions. Member brands commit to implementing these standards in their supply chains.

The ETI is one of several voluntary initiatives through which garment companies can commit to protecting the rights of workers who make their products, and, like most initiatives, the ETI also has a procedure through which breaches of those labour standards can be raised by members and addressed. CCC decided to report the Neo Trend case to the ETI in accordance with this procedure in July 2022 and requested the ETI member NGO Homeworkers Worldwide (HWW) initiate the process on behalf of the affected workers. Unfortunately, after a 14-month-long process, the ETI has not been able to ensure that the Neo Trend workers that produced for its member Next received their owed severance.

Bego Demir from CCC Turkey: “This case proves once more that if there are no binding laws to hold companies accountable, voluntary multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Ethical Trading Initiative cannot be the solution to achieve real remedy for workers, especially because they are financially dependent on the brands themselves. The time and efforts spent engaging with the initiative’s complaints procedure ultimately hasn’t resulted in any tangible change for the workers, who are still owed severance to this day.”

This case shows that when an unscrupulous employer cheats dismissed workers of severance pay, it is all too easy for the brands previously sourcing from that supplier to wash their hands of responsibility despite their membership in a voluntary multi-stakeholder initiative. The case highlights the limitations of such voluntary initiatives in achieving remedies for workers, as previously shown by the MSI Integrity project, and underlines once more the importance of legally binding mechanisms.

What we did and what happened

Below, we explain in more detail the steps that were taken in this case as part of Ethical Trading Initiative’s (ETI) procedure.

Original complaint filed in July 2022
The complaint filed by Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC) members to the ETI’s procedure alleged that the lack of severance payments to the Neo Trends workers constituted a violation of ETI’s Base Code, specifically clause 5.1:

“Wages and benefits paid for a standard working week meet, at a minimum, national legal standards or industry benchmark standards, whichever is higher. In any event, wages should always be enough to meet basic needs and to provide some discretionary income.”

Homeworkers Worldwide (HWW) officially reported this violation to the ETI on 18 July 2022 on behalf of CCC and the affected workers. After two months, the ETI shared Next’s first response to the complaint. Next denied the allegations on the grounds that their company did not have a commercial relationship with Neo Trend in the 12 months prior to the factory closure. The company denied being the “main buyer” and listed 17 other companies that were customers “at the relevant time” – two of which are ETI members. Next said its order levels represented about 15% of the factory’s production capacity and requested the ETI to reach out to other member brands doing business with Neo Trend “in the period prior to the factory closing”.

Furthermore, Next argued that it was Neo Trend’s own decision to cease trading and that, for this reason, it had no responsibility to the workers beyond paying the invoices for their final orders. Unfortunately, international due diligence guidelines provide little direction on this matter.

CCC submitted its response the following month, explaining that the workers had testified that they were only making clothes for Next and no other brands in the last months of production. There was no production at the factory whatsoever after the final orders for Next were shipped off in August 2020. The factory closure was officially announced as soon as companies were allowed to dismiss workers again at the end of Turkey’s national lockdown in July 2021, making the 12-month period that Next referred to completely irrelevant.

ETI concludes its investigation in March 2023
ETI went on to investigate the complaint in the ensuing 4.5 months, after which HWW received the investigation report. In its report, the ETI accepted Next’s argument, even though it said it had no way to validate if Next was right in claiming they were not the main buyer in the period leading up to the factory closure. In the ETI’s opinion, Next had no further obligation to ensure that workers were not harmed by Next’s business relationship with Neo Trend ending because it had been the decision of the factory to terminate the business. ETI did recommend that Next and the other buyers it had identified should consider “the merits of exploring collective options to achieve a resolution to the issue, including considering a financial goodwill gesture to affected workers.”

In our follow-up with ETI in April 2023, we asked for more details about the evidence provided by Next that they were not the main buyer at Neo Trend and the outcome of ETI’s follow-up with the other member brands that allegedly sourced from the factory in the relevant time period. The ETI then admitted Next hadn’t provided any hard evidence to support its claim. The CCC members then asked ETI to consult with the three other ETI member brands that Next had said were customers of Neo Trend, and only one had ever sourced from them, and that was several years ago.

On the ETI’s recommendation that Next consider “a financial goodwill gesture” to the former Neo Trend workers, we learned that the company declined to make a financial contribution out of concern that this might create a precedent. ETI was not willing to require members to comply with the recommendations of the review. NEXT ultimately refused to consider the recommendation as necessary and walked away.

Final outcome in October 2023
Through Homeworkers Worldwide, CCC submitted a formal request to appeal the ETI’s decision. In accordance with their procedure, ETI appointed a committee of its Board members to consider our appeal. This committee convened on 14 September 2023 to review all the evidence that was submitted, and the conclusions were shared on 2 October 2023. While the harm to workers was not contested, the committee stated that they decided to uphold the original investigation findings and reject the appeal. We learned on 11 October that Next’s position on making a financial contribution to the affected workers remained unchanged – the company maintains that they have acted ethically and responsibly. The former workers of Neo Trend thus remain empty-handed.