Fashion Can Help Address Modern Slavery, According To New Report

by: Rosie Dalton | 4 weeks ago | News

Image: garment workers strike in Bangladesh. Image source.

The Global Slavery Index shows that more than 40 million people are trapped in modern slavery around the world. An estimated 71% of those people are women and much of this forced and underpaid labour is still occurring in the fashion industry. Which is why the Freedom Fund – an institution that works to end modern slavery – believes that fashion is crucial in driving positive change.

Fashion is worth a staggering $300bn globally, yet workers’ rights throughout this industry are still sub-par, especially in the fast fashion sector. “One key factor contributing to the risk of forced and bonded labour in supply chains is the use of irresponsible purchasing practices by brands,” says Yuki Lo, Freedom Fund's senior monitoring and evaluation manager.

“Increasingly, companies’ success depends on their ability to produce something ‘new’ to meet consumer demands, resulting in smaller orders and shorter turnaround times,” Lo adds. “Suppliers, therefore, often pressure workers to work excessive overtime to fulfil high quotas or resort to unauthorised subcontracting, which carries even higher risks of exploitation.”

According to a report from 2018, 28 out of 43 companies scored less than 50 out of 100 when addressing the risk of forced labour in its supply chains. And just last week, allegations surfaced that Lululemon workers are being verbally and physically abused. So, in its new report, the Freedom Fund stresses the need for fashion brands to step up and for consumers to demand fair worker rights from their favourite brands.

“There should be no distinction between ethical fashion and normal fashion … The fashion industry needs to start acknowledging the scale of labour exploitation and forced labour in their supply chains,” Lo says. “And, consumers should also address their consumption habits to make conscious purchasing decisions and shop less often.”

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