The social issues facing the fashion industry your business might not be tackling

The fashion industry faces social issues that sustainability must address, discover what your business can do to protect human lives in fashion.

The social issues facing the fashion industry your business might not be tackling

On April 24, it was 9 years since the Rana Plaza disaster, the collapse of an eight-story building that housed several textile workshops in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The tragedy that caused more than a thousand fatalities gave visibility to one of the great deficiencies of the fashion industry: the lack of protection for workers involved in the supply chain of textile products. Almost a decade later, the social dimension of sustainability is still a pending issue for many brands. Find out what are the social issues that your business might not be tackling.

We must not forget that fashion is an industry with a powerful human nature. Despite technological evolution, behind each phase of the life cycle of a garment are the hands of many people. From the collection of raw materials, through spinning, wet processes, assembly, etc., there are many individuals involved in developing the final products that reach us. The volume of workers who risk their lives so that the textile industry continues to work is unquestionable.

With more than 300 million employees worldwide, the vast majority of textile factory workers are located in developing countries where the laws that regulate labor activity favor systemic poverty. The relocation of production chains to these places has caused the strangulation of prices in the sector. A fact that entails serious consequences for those who are in charge of clothing.

At BCOME we defend the integrative approach to sustainability, in which addressing the social dimension of fashion is essential to achieve a balance in the system. Let us remember which are the Sustainable Development Goals that are linked to social progress within the textile industry:

Goals 1 and 8. End of poverty, promotion of decent work and economic growth

We’ve mentioned it several times, only 4% of the price of a garment goes to the person who makes it. It would be enough for brands to commit to paying fair wages to drastically reduce global poverty levels. Active work must be done to end forced labour, end slavery in value chains and promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth. The fashion industry has great power when it comes to promoting decent work, job creation, as well as social protection and workers’ rights.

Goal 3. Health and wellness

The crisis caused by COVID-19 showed the health vulnerability of workers in the fashion industry. The lack of health care and healthy working conditions highlighted the need for stronger social protections for garment workers. It’s essential that textile groups support the health care of their employees to achieve a more resilient industry.

Goal 4. Quality education

The lack of legislation in some of the countries where the industry is located causes an increase in child labor and, as a consequence, their labor exploitation. These are children who are being deprived of receiving a basic education that will allow them to progress in the future. The absence of education leads to ignorance of their rights and the impossibility of accessing fairer working conditions along with more decent wages. In summary, the textile sector has a great responsibility in guaranteeing quality education in the producing communities and thus avoiding the increase in the child labor force.

Goals 5 and 10. Gender equality and reduction of inequalities

About 75% of the more than 60 million garment workers are women. Still, gender inequality seems to continue to be one of the least addressed issues in the industry. Most of these workers find themselves in situations of insecurity aggravated by extremely low wages, forced overtime, child labor, pregnancy discrimination, as well as physical and verbal abuse. Without a doubt, brands must reduce uncertain working conditions and improve social security that is currently lacking. It’s essential to protect the weakest link.

Goal 11. Sustainable cities and communities

The Rana Plaza tragedy highlighted the need to improve the infrastructure where the textile activity is located. Working conditions must become a priority. The large business groups that occupy these factories are also the ones who have to ensure the safety of the facilities and invest in their maintenance to guarantee the protection of the workers.

Goal 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions

Conflict, insecurity, weak institutions and limited access to justice continue to be a serious threat to sustainable development. Without going any further, there are still many workers who are prohibited from joining to create unions through which to fight for their labor rights. Fashion must support the recognition of its workers and encourage institutions to guarantee their well-being.

Beyond the problem that the SDGs seek to solve, there are other social issues that directly affect the fashion industry. Among them we find the serious problem of outsourcing. The lack of value chain traceability means that many brands are unaware that the factories that work for them outsource other suppliers. This lack of visibility means a loss of control of the supply chain and, as a consequence, an absolute lack of knowledge of the working conditions of the people involved.

The adoption of a solid code of conduct can be the first step in establishing good labor practices that can improve social harmony. Carrying out the evaluation and verification of the suppliers with whom it’s decided to work guarantees that all the agents involved in the supply chain are aligned with the requirements of the brand at an environmental, social and economic level.

On the other hand, recognizing the fundamental social certifications is essential to establish labor relations with suppliers that truly demonstrate their commitment to the social welfare of all the people involved in their activity.

The Rana Plaza disaster made the exploitative conditions in which many workers in the textile industry found themselves known globally, but it also made obvious the need to discover the traceability of supply chains. Knowing each of the stages our products go through is essential to improve the way they are manufactured and the conditions of those who are part of the process.

At BCOME we recognize the value of traceability to promote a fairer fashion industry that protects and guarantees the prosperity of all the agents involved. We have the tools you need to shed light on your value chain, shall we talk?

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