Take a look into the world behind your wardrobe!
‘Ethical shopping’ is often associated with boycotting exploitative Asian sweatshops producing branded clothes for our consumer markets. It’s certainly true that labour standards in the apparel sector are bad – and no transparency means its hard to trace whose fingers have been on your threads, let alone whether fair wages and conditions applied.
However it’s worth noting that the factory isn’t the first step in making clothes. Raw materials need to be grown, killed or manufactured, (and then dyed the right colour) and all of these processes are associated with social and environmental problems.
Your choices affect the world, and your wardrobe tells a story. This guide is a first step in exploring the track record of the companies behind clothing brands, the associated issues, and possible best choices, namely the alternatives.
Key Resources for Clothing
- Our new Clothing Choices map is a ‘how to’ guide in making better choices with regards to fairwages and exploitation. May 2014
- Australian Fashion Report, by Baptist World Aid and Not For Sale Australia, assesses the ethical practices of 87 clothing companies, updated 2016, providing a detailed grading of the systems companies have in place to protect the workers in their supply chain from exploitation, forced labour and child labour.
- Labour and Human Rights Risks in Supply-Chain Sourcing ACSI report, 24th June 2013. Investment risks in S&P/ASX200 Consumer Discretionary and Consumer Staples companies, by Australian Council of Superannuation Investors. Identifies companies as “likely to be sourcing from countries that have high labour and human rights risks”. For apparel/footwear/textiles products these countries are China, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and Vietnam.
- Tailored Wages UK report. Takes a close look at what actions top high street brands and retailers are taking to address the problem of poverty wages in the garment industry. The report profiles 40 companies on the extent to which their actions are having a positive real effect on workers wages in garment factories. April 2014.
- Choice article on Ethical Fashion from February 2014. Outlines conditions of clothing manufacture, the supply chain and how our clothes are sourced, how much our clothes cost to make and where they come from, why ethical sourcing codes and audits haven’t solved the problem, and what the major brands say.
- Apparel Industry Trends Report by Not For Sale, looks at slavery in the apparel industry, featuring supply chain ratings for more than 300 brands. US focus. Released 14 Nov 2012.
- Clearing The Hurdles report card, part of the the Play Fair Campaign, which presents responses from Nike, adidas, Pentland, Puma, Lotto, New Balance, Asics and Mizuno on their willingness to meet 36 specific targets to overcome the four hurdles facing workers in the sportswear industry. Published in 2008, revisited in 2012.
- Products of Slavery flash map shows countries where products are made using slave labour. There are 14 countries where cotton is produced using child labour. These are Argentina, Azerbaijan, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Paraguay, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.
- Travelling Textiles report, May 2009, by Brotherhood of St Laurence and St James Ethics Centre. This report and case study is the roadmap of two natural–fibre garments. See ‘Natural fibre garment sustainability roadmap‘ for sustainability considerations at each step in the supply chain.
Trendy clothes are cheaper than ever. That sounds great for the people who buy them, but it’s horrible for the people who make them.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Fashion (HBO): Apr 26, 2015
Latest Clothing news
13 May 2015
- David Jones sets ambitious target for every product to be ethically sourced. SMH article. David Jones wants to see all 1600 brands eventually become sustainable, environmentally friendly, and child and slave-labour free. See David Jones Supplier Code of Conduct and Ethical Sourcing Policy. See Shop Ethical! profile here.
- Release of The Australian Fashion Report 2015, grading 219 of our most popular clothing brands on how well they trace overseas suppliers and establish systems to prevent modern slavery and unfair conditions being imposed on workers. Also the Women’s Weekly full investigation into sweatshops.
Latest on the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster in Bangladesh
17 December 2013
- Kmart publishes Bangladesh supplier factory list. Target (which is also owned by Wesfarmers) also commits to reveal its supplier factories in Bangladesh within the next six to nine months, with India and China to follow.
2 December 2013
- See Oxfam’s “Naughty & Nice” Christmas list showing which Australian retailers have signed the Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Accord and which have not.
17 October 2013
- Woolworths finally has signed up to the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety in the wake of mounting pressure from church groups, unions and consumers. Sydney Morning Herald
- See ‘Who has signed the Bangladesh safety accord update’ (as of Mon 21st Oct) Just-Style
- Help pressure Pacific Brands and Just Group by sending them a Facebook message asking them to “GET ON BOARD AND SIGN THE ACCORD”. www.facebook.com/BONDS, www.facebook.com/jayjays
11 July 2013
- Local retailers Best & Less, Rivers, Just Jeans, and the Specialty Group who own Katies, Millers, and Autograph have still failed to sign the “Bangladesh Accord”. Best & Less, which has 15 factories in Bangladesh say they have their own ethical sourcing codes. Big W has maintained its “intention” is to sign the accord once there are more details on its implementation. Sydney Morning Herald
10 July 2013
- US retailers Walmart and Gap sign alternative safety plan – Guardian
- See criticisms of, and comparison of plans here
5 July 2013
- K-mart pledges to allow independent inspection of it’s foreign factories: ABC Background Briefing‘
- Clip of Kmart managing director Guy Russo on ABC News Breakfast (July 3) to discuss using Bangladeshi garment suppliers. (Must-see for the realities of clothing sourcing!)
24 June 2013
- ABC 4 Corners ‘Fashion Victims‘
- Cotton On sign on Geelong Advertiser‘
- Oxfam petition for Big W (still not signed on) Oxfam
7 June 2013
- K-mart and Target signs up to safety accord – ABC News
- For the list of companies who have signed the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, see Labour Rights and Industriall-union.
- ‘Rag Trade‘ – 60 minutes report, with links to Oxfam, K-mart, Best & Less statements. See tour of the Bangladesh garment making factory vid below.
16 May 2013
- Australian retailers Woolworths, Kmart and Target are facing threats of a consumer boycott after declining to sign an international agreement to improve fire safety and working conditions in Bangladesh. (K-Mart and Target are owned by Wesfarmers Ltd, who, with $58.9 billion in 2012 revenue, rank 21 among the world’s largest retailers. Woolworths Ltd, with $56.7 billion, rank 18. Their ethical sourcing policies are here , here and here respectively. Power actually does equal responsibility. They may need reminding. Petition is found here).
28 April 2013
- Collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory which resulted in the deaths of 1100 workers.