The Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh opened up the worlds eyes to a problem that has been ignored for too long. The garment industry has been employing labourers around the world without being fully aware of how human rights are being enforced or simply disregarded. This is mainly due to fashion brands out-sourcing labour and refusing to own the factories that produce their garments. In the past, this has relinquished them from any responsibility for factory safety upkeep and working conditions but now people are starting to question this chain of accountability.
The fashion industry's supply chain is notoriously long and complicated; spanning many countries and cultures, travelling thousands of miles, passing through countless pairs of hands. This is where the problem of accountability and responsibility arises. Who do we look to, to enforce human rights throughout the supply chain?
Fashion brands? Consumers? Governments?
Well I think that we all need to chip in. When a person's human rights are denied, we have a collective responsibility to speak up. Governments around the world should all be moving towards introducing not only minimum wages but living wages. There are some fashion brands that are already providing this for their employees around the world and I hope to see others follow in this vain. As consumers, what can we do? Well, we can demand more. We can call out the retailers that are disregarding human rights, we can promote the ones that are enforcing them and we can cast our vote with our money by letting our purchasing power do the talking.
After the Rana Plaza disaster, the 'Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh' was drafted by Uni Global Union, IndustriALL and NGWF. It was put forward to all the fashion companies producing garments in the city. Under the accord, garment workers can refuse to work in unsafe conditions and must continue to be paid under these circumstances until the issues are resolved. The fashion brands were not eager to sign, with some major hesitations from; Matalan, Edinburgh Woolen Mill, J D Sports and River Island. We are still waiting for Peacocks and Sports Direct to sign.
The fashion companies complicit in the Rana Plaza disaster were invited to Geneva to discuss setting up a fund for the victims. Of the 29 companies involved, only 9 turned up and only Primark contributed to the fund. It's time for us to call upon these fashion brands to become accountable to their workers. You can call on Peacocks and Sports Direct to sign the Accord via the See Through Fashion campaign here. You can also chose to cast your consumer vote wisely by shopping for clothes using ethical fashion brands that enforce living wages and by buying second hand from charity and vintage shops.
Learn more about human rights and ethical fashion by following the debate today on twitter
Picture from: Business of Fashion