Image courtesy of the Clean Clothes Campaign.
The Clean Clothes Campaign, an organization that works toward massive global improvements in the garment industry, released a study of its findings on the efforts of European clothing brands toward better pay and working conditions for workers in third world countries. Unfortunately, what they discovered wasn’t promising.
The alliance surveyed 50 brands, from fast fashion to the luxury level, and found that none of them currently pays wages the Campaign considers commensurate with a “normal” standard of living. Though half the labels looked at expressed something in writing about meeting their workers’ needs, no one, it seems, is actually doing it. Four companies, Inditex (Zara’s owner), Tchibo, Switcher, and Marks & Spencer, deserve credit for taking actual steps toward improving, in ways that fall in line with their written codes of conduct.
For everyone else, which includes Adidas to Louis Vuitton, and H&M to Tod’s, the Clean Clothes Campaign found an increased awareness in the need to pay workers more, but little to the effect of, well, actually paying workers more. For some, like H&M, the study found effort but not enough proof of success. For instance, the Swedish fast fashion retailer has committed to paying its suppliers more, which is a start, but isn’t doing much at all to offer a specific benchmark to which individual salaries are raised. Until that happens, workers are likely to continue earning less than they need to support a family.
With studies finding that the cost of living in countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia is about three times the average amount earned by garment workers in those countries, the wage issue is a problem across the fashion industry. Brands are giving it better lip service, but not nearly what they could or should be doing in terms of fundamental improvements.