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5 Ways Governments Should Regulate Fashion Supply Chains

by: Rosie Dalton | 3 weeks ago | Features

Image: Vivienne Westwood protesting the UK government's environmental policy. Image source.

With the US election taking place this past week, we're thinking about how governments could institute regulations to minimise the harmful impacts of fashion industry supply chains. With a duty to protect their citizens and uphold their rights, government plays a really big role in these issues. And, as Fashion Revolution’s Melinda Tually explains, “we need to hold [governments] accountable for their commitments and we also need to hold them accountable on things like wage-setting mechanisms.”

So these are five regulations that we think governments should implement, in order to actually affect practical and positive change for the future of fashion industry supply chains.

1) Extend the Modern Slavery Act to all fashion companies
In 2018 Australia passed the Modern Slavery Act, which requires companies (including fashion companies) that are based or operating in Australia with an annual consolidated revenue of more than $100 million to report on slavery and forced labor risks in their supply chains. While this is a great step – and the result of longstanding advocacy efforts – it would be great to see all governments implement similar laws and extend the requirements of those laws to fashion businesses of all sizes. 

2) Implement wage-setting mechanisms
Incredibly low wages are unfortunately still the norm across global fashion supply chains, so it is important for governments to be implementing wage-setting mechanisms. These need to begin not just with mandating minimum wages, but also working out how to pay a living wage in a consistent and equitable manner from country to country.

3) Introduce a carbon tax
Fashion is an industry known for generating significant carbon emissions and air pollution. Which is why global governments need to be regulating garment factories when it comes to their environmental impact, by introducing a carbon tax for fashion companies. Or at very least incentivising those businesses to do better, by offering tax cuts for meeting low carbon targets.

4) Mandate regular auditing
In addition to fashion companies having to report on slavery and forced labour risks in their supply chains, governments should also make it mandatory for those companies to be audited on a regular basis. Independent checks should be carried out right across these supply chains, to prevent forced or child labour and to ensure that fair and safe working conditions are being upheld.

5) Ban brands from destroying unsold stock
Governments should also be incentivising fashion companies to cut down their waste. And a good place to start is either with taxing brands per wasted garment or banning brands from landfilling or incinerating unsold stock that can be reused or recycled. This was one of the (sadly unsuccessful) recommendations put forward by the Environmental Audit Committee in the UK, following industry investigations after reports that brands like Burberry and H&M were destroying deadstock inventory.

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