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Aussie Fashion Brands Failing Workers


22 April 2015 at 11:55 am
Xavier Smerdon
Almost two years after the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which saw over 1,100 workers lose their lives, a new Australian fashion industry report reveals that fashion brands aren’t doing enough to protect workers in their international supply chains.

Xavier Smerdon | 22 April 2015 at 11:55 am


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Aussie Fashion Brands Failing Workers
22 April 2015 at 11:55 am

Almost two years after the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, which saw over 1,100 workers lose their lives, a new Australian fashion industry report reveals that fashion brands aren’t doing enough to protect workers in their international supply chains.

The research, conducted by international aid and development organisation Baptist World Aid Australia, highlights what 219 major global and domestic fashion brands have been doing to ensure workers in their supply chains are being protected from exploitation.

Companies were graded based on their policies, supply chain traceability, monitoring programs and worker rights.

The 2015 Australian Fashion Report also assessed whether companies are paying a wage that meets their workers’ basic needs and found only 9 per cent of fashion brands are paying their workers a living wage.

Advocacy Manager at Baptist World Aid, Gershon Nimbalker, said in Bangladesh, the current minimum wage of US $68 per month falls short of the US $104 per month, which was being touted as a fair living wage.

“It doesn’t take much for the end-consumer to make a difference to the lives of those making our clothes. Research shows an additional 30c per t-shirt would ensure living wages are met in Bangladesh,” Nimbalker said.

According to the report one of the worst overall performers was iconic Australian fashion brand the Just Group, who received an overall D grade, with an F grade for worker rights.

Also performing badly was Best & Less receiving a D-grade and Lowes receiving an F grade.

The report did reveal however that some Australian companies have made significant improvements and engaged deeply with the research process. Since 2013, Kmart and Cotton On have improved their traceability of suppliers throughout their supply chains and Country Road and the Sussan Group have improved worker wages.

“It’s really encouraging to see companies make high impact and lasting changes like publishing lists of direct suppliers and paying wages that actually meet workers’ basic needs,” Nimbalker said.

“The 2013 factory collapse sparked the collective conscience of consumers and retailers to know more about the people producing our clothes and how they are treated.

“While an increased number of companies know the factories where their final manufacturing takes place, only nine per cent have traced down to the people picking their cotton,” explained Nimbalker. “If companies don’t know or don’t care who is producing their products, it’s much harder to know whether workers are being exploited or even enslaved.”

The 2015 Australian Fashion report is the third report in Baptist World Aid’s Behind the Barcode research and also features an accompanying Ethical Fashion Guide.

“We hope consumers use this research to make every day ethical purchasing decisions because we know that when consumers call for change, they have the power to transform the practices of companies,” Nimbalker said.

The 2015 Australian Fashion report can be downloaded here.


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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