24th April, marks the seven year anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Savar, Bangladesh. The garment factory collapsed killing 1,132 people and injuring thousands more. In the days following the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013, haunting images circulated online showing family members desperately sifting through the debris to locate their loved ones.
These images captured the world’s attention and became a catalyst for unprecedented collective action on factory safety. The real tragedy is how easily this loss of life could have been avoided had the workers been allowed to evacuate - cracks in the building could clearly be seen more than a day before.
I spent hours hearing from the men, women and children who lost loved ones, who had their lives ripped apart by this preventable disaster, driven by our insatiable need for new and cheap clothing. Our lack of connection and understanding of the magnitude of people involved in making our clothes is the driving force behind Know The Origin.
Despite the 200+ global brands coming together to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. Seven years on, its business as usual, with brands taking little action to protect some of the most vulnerable people that are making their clothes. The #PayUp initiative has tried to encourage brands to take responsibility and stop cancelling, postponing or refusing to pay for orders read more here. These actions have meant factories have had to lay off workers, without severance or financial resources to fall back on, resulting in losing their work, homes and access to food.
In Bangladesh garment workers recently took to the streets and protested in great numbers despite the lockdown restrictions because once again, their health and potentially their lives are still worth less than a paycheck. They can’t not afford to wait two years for compensation funds from brands, similar to Rana Plaza wait times.
“I see the western world stocking up on food while garment workers are going hungry. Where are the brands who claimed to be sustainable now? I will never forget how they’ve treated us during Covid-19. It is like Rana Plaza all over again”, Activist Kalpona Akter, Dhaka Tribune.
As the coronavirus pandemic forces the world now to hit a reset button, this is a chance for brands to rethink and reset their practices and values. Take the opportunity to invest time into lasting, sustainable, high-quality clothes. To move away from creating fashion that is destroying people's lives and contributing to environmental degradation worldwide. To invest in lasting relationships with suppliers and really get to know who made our clothes.
The week of 22-26th April is Fashion Revolution 2020, people across the world are coming together to ask #WhoMadeMyClothes? There is no denying that Fashion Revolution has played a vital role in educating millions and driving for a cleaner industry. However, in the Fashion Transparency Index report, it rated H&M as the top rated transparent brand, creating confusion around which brands are doing good.
We wanted to take a moment to clarify that you can be fully transparent about something, but it doesn’t make that action ok.
Here's what we know about H&M, they generated $1,813.92m net profit in 2019, but were still unable to pay a living wage to any of the people that made their clothes.
H&M is working hard to do better and they’re becoming more and more transparent/ethical as the years go on, but that doesn’t mean their products are at all sustainable, child labour free, human trafficking free or add anything back into the communities they deplete from.
By Fashion Revolution, a movement proposing for a more ethical industry, ranking H&M first place only leaves us all a little confused. C&A came in second on the transparency index, despite refusing to pay for its orders due to COVID-19. The index was created around a methodology on transparency, but there should be more focus on brands that are doing things ethically.
We are noticing a rise of brands that are strategically and deliberately repeating stories and jargon, as a way to look more transparent or ethical than they really are. Whilst, most brands publish little information about their efforts, if any, to improve pay and achieve living wages in the supply chain. Hardly any brands disclose their approach to achieving the payment of living wages to workers in the supply chain or about their purchasing practices.
What you can do:
1. Tag H&M in this instagram story to ask them how many workers receive living wage?
2. If you are confused about where to shop, seek brands that aren’t just transparent but have accountability through certifications in the supply chain. We’re launching our new website in the next couple of months, where you will be able to filter by exact ethical standard. You can use sites like Fairtrade to find links to certified brands.
3. There are still a number of brands that have no transparency or ethical standards. Use your voice by posting on their facebook or tagging them on instagram with the comment #GoTransparent