Where are we today and how can brands guarantee ethical practices?
Written by the Circular Fashion Detective
April 23rd, 2013 Bangladesh. Sohel Rana, the owner of Rana Plaza, was warned about cracks in his building’s construction. The situation endangered his employees’ safety, yet, he threatened to withhold pay from those refusing to show up for work the next day. On April 24th, 2013, the building collapsed and took the lives of 1,134 garment workers and injured about 2,500 more. The victims were mostly young women, leaving hundreds of orphans behind. Yes, you can blame Sohel Rana for being ignorant of Human Rights. Now please allow me to be the advocate of the Devil for a moment when I ask you: Who could have prevented Sohel to feel such pressure to force his employees to show up to work in a building he knew was shaking on its grounds?
You may know how a fast fashion supply chain is a catalyst for a race to the bottom, where representatives of the brands are excelling in playing hardball with manufacturers in low wage countries. Do not take my word for it, I have never worked in any of such environments, but I have seen footage that did the same job for me. Let’s get a little technical and nerdy for a second. I believe that human beings are like algorithms that improve as they are being fed with more and more data. This means that the more we learn about such atrocities, the stronger our sense of compassion grows and we are ought to challenge the status quo by disregarding the old way and implementing the new.
Fashion Revolution, an NGO founded by Orsola de Castro and Carry Somers on April 24th, 2013, ‘celebrated’ 7 years of activism. Their focus has always been on educating consumers on what is going on in the ‘closed kitchens’ and leaves them empowered to support ethical and more conscious fashion. Despite these amazing efforts, the industry has not drastically changed its ways yet, and therefore we, as an industry and a wealthy society, need to consider how to globally walk the talk. Brands that have been ordering their garments from Bangladeshi factories with high skilled garment workers, now refuse to pay as they massively cancel their orders due to the luring retail apocalypse. These factories now need to cover the costs worth billions of $.
More organizations have joined forces with Fashion Revolution and thus brands (both giants and SMEs) are considering their financial obligations. Consumers are becoming ever more educated on the topic and will not support those who have not done the right thing in this time of crisis. Thus, if your brand walks its talk about values and sustainability, the industry will greatly benefit from your exemplary behavior of paying up for what you ordered.
Leaving you with one of my favorite quotes by Dr. Kate Raworth that just drives home the way towards a sustainable fashion industry:
“We need to meet the needs of all, within the means of the planet.”