Kerryn Boogaard Kerryn Boogaard
Beverly Goldsmith Beverly Goldsmith
Zoe Bingley-Pullin Zoe Bingley-Pullin

Ethical clothing makes a difference:

A new report gets behind the barcode to assess clothing brands on their approach to ensuring workers are not being exploited.
By Motherpedia
Date: April 21 2015
Editor Rating:
garment-factory

Later this week is the second anniversary of the collapse of the Rana Plaza clothing factory in Bangladesh in which more than 1,100 workers perished yet a report issued last week by Baptist World Aid shows that most of us do not know much about the clothing we buy and wear. 

While there has been improvement in clothing brands since the initial report in 2013, nine-out-of-ten companies still don’t know where the cotton for their garments are sourced, and most fail to pay overseas workers enough to meet basic needs.

Baptist World Aid’s Australian Fashion Report also points to the increased risk of child and forced labour in the garment industry because most local companies are unable to trace or fail to monitor their supply chains.

Amongst the worst performers are well-known Australian brands such as Yarra Trial, Lowes, Anthea Crawford and Industrie who were all given an ‘F’. Others including the major sports such as A-League, AFL and NRL as well as Sportscraft, Best and Less, David Lawrence, RM Williams and JAG are given a D-. 

Only four brands are given an A+ - Audrey Blue, Etiko, Jinta and Pants to Poverty.

Researchers examined 59 apparel companies collectively supplying 220 clothing brands in Australia and graded them on their policies, transparency, supply chain traceability and worker rights. About 75% of the companies responded to a survey about their business practices, with the remaining businesses graded solely on publicly available information. 

The report has looked at the source of the raw product as well the manufacture of apparel because the factory is not the first step in making clothes.

“The supply chain for apparel starts with the raw materials needed to be grown, killed or manufactured and dyed the right colour,” said a spokesperson for advocacy group, Shop Ethically.

“All of these processes are associated with social and environmental problems.

Most companies do not carry out regular random inspections or have a system in place for workers to raise complaints. While eight companies had taken steps to improve low wages for overseas workers only two proved they paid a full living wage.

According to the report, the production cost of a T-shirt in Bangladesh would increase from about 50c to 80c if workers were paid a living wage – an amount that would make little difference to the average Australian purchaser. The minimum wage in Bangladesh is currently $88 a month; in Australia, it’s $2,565.

Baptist World Aid says that shopping ethically makes a difference.

“The companies do care about what consumers think about them and where people shop and why,” they said in a statement.

“Since the last guide, 44 companies have engaged with us about what they’re doing to ensure that workers aren’t being exploited. The pressure arising from consumers and investors, and the increased awareness since the fatal Rana Plaza disaster … has seen the industry take big strides forward.”

Two thirds of companies graded in the 2013 report have improved their practices and more than a dozen have now signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, pledging a safe work environment in the ready made garment industry. 

Kmart was singled out for improving supply chain traceability and Cotton-On was ranked the highest rated non-Fairtrade Australian retailer.

Twenty-three companies have boycotted cotton from one of the world's largest cotton exporters, Uzbekistan, which has a history of forcing children as young as 10 to work in government-owned cotton fields. Coles, Lowes, Best & Less, Billabong and Quiksilver have not boycotted using Uzbekistan cotton but David Jones, which lifted its grade from an F to a C- over the past two years, last week agreed to the boycott.

“By purchasing from companies that treat workers ethically, consumers are encouraging more companies and decision-makers to take action to ensure workers are not exploited, that they are paid adequately and they work free from the tyranny of modern slavery,” says Baptist World Aid.

Report Card

A+

Audrey Blue, Etiko, Jinta, Pants to Poverty

A

Bali Bras, Barely There, Brooks, Champion, Fruit of the Loom, Hanes, L’eggs, Liminal Apparel, Maidenform, Playtex, Rrepp, Russell Ahtletic, Spalding, Wonderbra

A-

3 Fish, Cotton On, Cotton On Body, Factorie, H&M, Patagonia, Rubi Shoes, Supre, T-bar by Cotton On, Typo, Zara

B+

Adidas, Ashworth, Country Road, Cue, Dockers, Levi’s, Luluemon, Mimco, Reebok, Rockport, Taylor Made, Timberland, Trenery, Veronika Maine, Witchery

B

7 For All Mankind, Athleta, Banana Republic, Berlei, Bonds, Cobra Golf, Converse, Dunlopillo, Eagle Creek, Ella Moss, Gap, Holeproof Explorer, Hurley, Intermix, Jansport, Jeanswest, Jockey, Kathmandu, Kmart, Lacoste, Lee, Majestic, Nautica, Nike, Old Navy, Puma, Razzmatazz, Riders by Lee, Rustler, Sheridan, Sportsgirl, Sussan, Suzanne Grae, The North Face, Tontine, Tretorn, Uniqlo, Vans, Voodoo, Wrangler

B-

Avella, Big W, Circuit, Coles, Darn Tough, Emerson, Free Fusion, Lily Loves, Mambo, Mix Apparel, Moda Molli & Mimi, New Balance, Nine&Mine, ONE Active by Michelle Bridges, Peter Morrissey, Simon de Winter, T30, Target, Wave Zone

C+

Forever New

C

Abercrombie & Fitch, Autograph, Billabong, Brook Brothers, City Chic, Crossroads, Element, Hollister, Katies, Kustom, Millers, Oroton, Palmers Surf, Rivers, RVCA, Tigerlily, VonZipper, Xcel

C-

Agenda, Alta Linea, Basque, Blaq, Charlie Brown, Connor, David Jones, Johnny Bigg, Milana, Milkshake, Miss Shop, Myer, Piper, Regatta, Reserve, Saint James, Sass & Bide, Tarocash, Tokito, Triplite, Yd

D+

Colorado, DC, Diana Ferrari, Mathers, Quiksilver, Roxy, Williams

D

Beme, Dotti, Jacqui E, Jay Jays, Just Jeans, Peter Alexander, Portmans, Rockmans, Smiggle, Table Eight, W Lane

D-

A-League, AFL, Aquasport, Best and Less, Bisley, Blueprint, Boomdoggers, Colts & Fillies, David Lawrence, French Kitty, Gazal, Globalocal, Hi There by Karen Walker, Itsu, JAG, Jigsaw, Jimmie Jams, Ladybird, Longhorn, Marcs, Milly, NRL, Paperdolls, Playcorp Apparel, Purr, RM Williams, Saba, Skechers, Sportscraft, Stockyard, Wayne Cooper, WigglesWillow

F

Ally, Anthea Crawford, Beare & Ley, Blackpepper, Breakaway, Equus, Indie Kids by Industry, Industrie, Jump, Kachel, Lowes, Marco Polo, Mirrou, Review, Temt, Thurley, Valleygirl, Yarra Trail, Yvonne Black

Further information

To find out more, visit Baptist World Aid's behindthebarcode.org.au

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