Global Fashion Agenda proactively advocates for policy changes and supportive measures that reinforce sustainability targets and prompt policymakers to take informed action to foster necessary change. The GFA Monitor report is built on five sustainability priorities and outlines the opportunities and actions required for fashion brands and retailers to shift to a net positive fashion industry by 2050. The first of the five priorities is Respectful & Secure Work Environments. Policy initiatives present important opportunities to drive and incentivise positive social and economic development for the people the fashion value cycle employs, their families, and their communities. This can be achieved by the setting of mandatory measures that uphold human rights and ensure secure working conditions, fair wages, and wellbeing. Improvements in Respectful and Secure Work Environments are expected to be impacted by two important ongoing policy initiatives.

EU proposal for a directive on corporate sustainability due diligence

The first proposal implicating this priority is the EU’s long-awaited legislative proposal for a Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence. It was published by the European Commission on 23 February 2022 with the general aim of motivating companies to inspect their supply chains for human rights and environmental breaches. The textiles sector has been included among those on which the proposed Directive will have a high impact. Important to note that its Annex provides a list of violations of human rights and environmental obligations that include working conditions, and which will then be used to determine the adverse impact on human rights and environment as part of the due diligence. The Directive would enter into force as of 2025-2026 following the final adoption by the EU co-legislators and the transposition by the Member States into their national systems.

The New York Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act

The second initiative relevant to The GFA Monitor priority of ‘Respectful and Secure Work Environments’ is the New York’s Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act introduced in October 2021. If adopted with its current suggested provisions (the bill must now await next year’s session, due to commence in January), it would include an obligation of Social and Environmental Due Diligence Disclosure to apparel and footwear companies with more than 100 million USD in revenue doing business in New York.

Policymakers worldwide must not overlook the significance of the fashion industry and instead should follow suit in proposing mandatory measures for companies in a crucial step towards industry accountability for respectful and secure work environments.

“Global Fashion Agenda is currently working together with the Policy Hub-Circularity for Apparel and Footwear on the amendments to the Corporate Due Diligence Directive at the European Parliament level and is looking forward to knowing more about its enforcement in the textile sector announced by the European Commission as of 2023 part of the EU Textiles Strategy. This is a crucial file and we fully recognise the importance for companies to take responsibility to respect human rights and protect the environment.” – Maria Luisa Martínez Díez, Public Affairs Director, Global Fashion Agenda.

Download The GFA Monitor to learn more here

Global Fashion Agenda is one of the five members of the Steering Committee of the Policy Hub – Circularity for Apparel and Footwear. Our position papers and related advocacy actions can be found at www.policyhub.org

The fashion value chain employs around 65 million people, the majority being female, many of whom are exposed to occupational hazards, ranging from exposure to dangerous work conditions to discrimination.1 Today, gender-based violence remains a leading issue on the global development agenda with 1 in 3 women worldwide experiencing physical and or sexual violence from men at some point in their lives. However, change is coming. Following the adoption of the 190 ILO Convention on Violence and Harassment in the world of work in June 2019, companies are increasingly expected to prevent and address gender-based violence.2 To achieve this, the industry must move beyond the silence surrounding gender-based violence in order to engage the right stakeholders to address this both globally and locally.

 

BSR

On a mission to create a just and sustainable world, BSRTM (Business for Social Responsibility) is an organisation of sustainable business experts working with its global network of the world’s leading companies to provide insights, advice, and collaborative initiatives that create long-term business value, and scale impact.

One of BSR’s most well-known collaborative initiatives HERprojectTM strives to empower low-income women working in global supply chains. By bringing together global brands, their suppliers, and local NGOs, HERprojectTM drives impact for women and businesses via workplace-based interventions on health, financial inclusion and gender equality. Since its inception in 2007, HERproject™ has worked in more than 850 workplaces across 14 countries and has increased the wellbeing, confidence and economic potential of more than 1,000,000 women and 620,000 men.

 

HERrespect – ADDRESSING GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE IN THE GARMENT SECTOR, BANGALORE, INDIA

Today, the prevalence of violence for women in Asia including its garment industry is unwarrantable with 60% of garment workers in India and Bangladesh having reportedly experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. As part of BSR’s wider collaborative initiative HERprojectTM, the HERrespect programme aims to cultivate gender equitable attitudes and relationships among women and men, contributing to stronger workplace relationships, prevention of gender-based violence, and strengthening the ability of workplaces to respond to incidents of gender-based violence. From the programme’s induction in 2018 to Fall 2020, 19 factories have completed the 18-month programme reaching 9,010 women, 3,517 male workers, 100 managers and the successful roll out of training for 188 peer educators.

A garment factory based in Bangalore, India, which supplies to a global specialty retailer was one of the factories who completed the HERrespect programme. 1,400 workers including women, men, and supervisors were reached either through direct training or through a peer-to-peer educator methodology. The project, co-delivered with Swasti – a local expert organisation focused on health and well-being – included a 6-module on-site training for workers and supervisors, covering topics on soft skills, communication styles, gender norms, violence and relationships, and support networks. HERrespect also supported and guided the factory to strengthen their systems to reduce the risk of women facing gender-based violence at the workplace, and to build organisational systems that respond timely and fairly when workers raise complaints about these behaviors. Results taking from the end-line programme survey showed a significant reduction in workers’ acceptance of violence against women and gender-unequal statements, with both male and female workers reporting that ‘supervisors punishing employees is a normal and acceptable occurrence’ dropping from 50% to 6%, plus the belief that ‘women deserve to be beaten sometimes’ falling from 32% to 4%.

To find out how you can join BSR’s HERproject in addressing harassment and violence in the workplace visit HERprojectTM here.

 

CALL TO ACTION

Legislation is coming. Already, in the case of Asia, countries such as India and Bangladesh require companies to prevent and address sexual harassment through national legislation. The industry can no longer afford to delay action.

As a first move, brands, manufacturers, employee representatives, local governments and associations must work collaboratively to raise standards and track the progress of human and labour rights to allow voices of workers to be heard and to raise industry compliance standards around due diligence and human rights.3 To learn more about how you can act to ensure safe working conditions for garment workers free of violence and discrimination read our Fashion CEO Agenda – Respectful and Secure Work Environments.

REFERENCES

1 Global Fashion Agenda. (2021). Fashion CEO Agenda 2021.

2 Business for Social Responsibility. (2021). HERrespect.

3 Global Fashion Agenda. (2021). Fashion CEO Agenda 2021.

Promoting the industry-wide implementation of wages and working conditions that meet the basic needs of workers presents an opportunity for fashion brands to enhance the prosperity of the economies and people that interact with the value chain.1

Although most fashion brands do not set the wages of production workers, they have a role to play in promoting systemic change, which is needed due to institutional failings.

To do this, fashion brands can work with manufacturers to strengthen compliance and to create mechanisms for transparent record keeping, warrant fair living wages and explore opportunities in areas such as training and digitalisation of payment systems. With the outbreak of COVID-19, wage systems risk becoming secondary given the pandemics strong implications on job security at a global scale. However, research shows that factories and brands that have adhered to employment contracts, implemented employee protection schemes and employed more transparent pay mechanisms have shown great resilience throughout the pandemic.2

 

BETTER WORK 

With a vision of a garment industry that lifts millions of people out of poverty, Better Work – a partnership between the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), brings together all levels of the global garment industry to improve working conditions and respect labour rights for workers, while promoting inclusive economic growth.

The Better Work approach creates lasting, positive change to supply chains through factory assessments and training, as well as advocacy and research that changes policies, attitudes and behaviors. Today, the programme partners with international brands and operates in nine manufacturing countries: Cambodia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Egypt, Jordan, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Nicaragua. By sharing their approach and the results of their on-the groundwork, Better Work seek to influence policy makers and decision makers to promote decent work and better business.

 

BETTER WORK PROGRAMME – DIGITAL WAGES FOR DECENT WORK

When COVID-19 broke out, workers across manufacturing hotspots became victims to delayed and, in some cases, lost wage payments. As part of its package to address the crisis, the Better Work programme, a partnership between the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), is actively promoting the use of digital wage payments.

By introducing digital payment systems, occurrences of late and incorrect payments are significantly reduced, granting workers more control over their financial future, in turn acting as an important step for gender equity enabling women to manage their own finances via online banking and e-wallets. Digital wage payments also create an effective mechanism for workers to receive wage subsidies or income replacement payments.

In Jordan, Better Work is collaborating with the United Nations-based Better Than Cash Alliance, the German Development Cooperation (GIZ),  and key Jordanian stakeholders to pilot digital wage payments for garment workers.

Following the large investment made by the Jordanian government and financial sector in digital payment technology, Jordanian workers were empowered to open e-wallets remotely enabling them to safely receive government aid and wages during the pandemic. As a result of these coordinated efforts, the number of e-wallets held by workers more than doubled between March and December 2020 reaching a total of 1,255,546 wallets with 1.3 million transactions made by the year end. Mobile money also facilitated access to governmental aid during the pandemic for more than 260,000 families who previously depended on cash.

Based on the successful pilot in Jordan, there are clear benefits for this effort to be scaled to other manufacturing countries, with work currently being explored in Indonesia, Cambodia, and Bangladesh.

To learn more about how you can play a part in moving the garment industry toward wage digitisation, email communications@betterwork.org.

 

CALL TO ACTION

Shifting to digital payment systems presents just one proven way to promote fair and decent wages. Going forward we encourage brands to explore how improvements in areas such as purchasing, productivity, training and data implementation can further contribute to the establishment of improved wage systems and to investigate systems of wage setting.3

To learn more about how you can act, read our Fashion CEO Agenda – Better Wage Systems.

Authored by Global Fashion Agenda.

REFERENCES

1 Global Fashion Agenda. (2021). Fashion CEO Agenda 2021.

2 Global Fashion Agenda. (2021). Fashion CEO Agenda 2021.

3 Global Fashion Agenda. (2021). Fashion CEO Agenda 2021.

COVID-19 continues to expose existing structural inequalities within fashion’s value chain, with workers disproportionately impacted. Despite increased industry adoption of social assessments in an effort to be more transparent, the industry has at large failed to converge efforts. This has not only resulted in time-consuming and duplicative audits for manufacturers but has also been of huge financial cost to brands and retailers.

Systemic change cannot be achieved alone, it requires collaboration of several stakeholder groups. The Social & Labor Convergence Program and Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s latest partnership creates a supportive environment towards the development and wide scale adoption of common global assessments for the industry to drive greater performance improvement.

SOCIAL & LABOR CONVERGENCE PROGRAM (SLCP)

The Social & Labor Convergence Program (SLCP) is a multi-stakeholder initiative with the mission to implement a converged assessment framework that will eliminate audit fatigue and support stakeholders’ efforts to improve working conditions in global supply chains. SLCP has brought together diverse stakeholders to create and implement a system and common tool for a high-quality comparable data set on working conditions that can be used by all industry stakeholders. The tool, the Converged Assessment Framework (CAF), increases transparency in supply chains, reduces the need for social audits and ultimately enables users to redeploy resources into improving working conditions.

SUSTAINABLE APPAREL COALITION

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is a global, multi-stakeholder non-profit alliance for the fashion industry behind the development of the Higg Index, a standardised value chain measurement suite of tools for all industry participants. The tools measure environmental and social & labour impacts across the value chain with which the industry can address inefficiencies, resolve damaging practices, and achieve socio-environmental transparency.

As SLCP’s incubator, SAC stands to be the first standard holder to fully accept SLCP data and is one of the largest adopters of the CAF.

SCALING ADOPTION OF COMMON GLOBAL ASSESSMENTS

To drive greater performance improvements through the scaled adoption of common global assessments for the industry, SAC has fully committed to the implementation of the SLCP’s CAF, acting as the backbone of the Higg Facility Social Labor Module (FSLM). This way, SAC can drive the converged measurement of social conditions across their 200+ members – accounting for a significant proportion of the industry, achieving 3318 verified FLSM completions to date.

By leveraging the CAF through the FLSM, SAC signifies to the industry that using converged tools is essential for improving working conditions – eliminating duplicative and repetitive proprietary social and labour audits for facilities with a single verified assessment. Additionally, providing high-quality data that can be translated into meaningful insights that drive pre-competitive collaborations, prompt action, accountability and inform consumer choice. As the CAF continues to evolve, the SAC will work with its members to scale adoption of the tool and influence its development to ensure that it remains relevant and useful for all stakeholders.

BENEFITS OF THE CONVERGED ASSESSMENT FRAMEWORK:

– Reduces audit fatigue at facility level

– Gives facilities ownership of their social and labour data and how they share it

– Produces end-users with a high-quality, credible verified set of social & labour data

– Provides comparable, actionable data that can inform remediation

To find out more and be a part of SLCP’s multi-stakeholder initiative, contact SLCP here.

To find out more about the work of SAC, contact SAC here.

“The collective power of SLCP and GFA will lead to industry alignment, shifting resources away from duplicative social audits towards improved working conditions in supply chains. SLCP’s Converged Assessment Framework will be a key source of credible verified data to hold the industry accountable to the CEO agenda’s social priorities.” – Janet Mensink, Executive Director, Social & Labor Convergence Program

Partnership is the new leadership, and we need collective action to succeed as an industry. By collaborating with the SLCP and leveraging the CAF at scale, we can help brands, retailers, and manufacturers assess their social impacts and strategically direct valuable resources towards efforts that meaningfully improve conditions for garment workers globally.” – Amina Razvi, Executive Director, Sustainable Apparel Coalition