It’s been a bit crunchy on the blog lately; plant based meals, recycling and Earth Day chit chat. Thankfully, the last week of “Earth Month” is Fashion Revolution week (April 23-29), so with that we have a good excuse to talk about clothes.
It’s funny because when we say “fashion revolution” we’re not mainly talking about shopping second hand or choosing sustainable fabrics, rather it’s about ethical labor, feminism and ending the extreme wealth inequality in this world.
Because I am Swedish I am guilty of (maybe) hating on H&M more than I should. Sure, they have a conscious collection, which is a step in the right direction (and super), however, I can’t applaud them yet because I know they could do so much more. Plus I feel like they could have started to make positive changes a long time ago. Not only to tackle environmental issues but for ensuring ethical treatment of workers. Do you think Stefan can afford it?
Stefan Persson, whose father founded H&M, is ranked 43 in the Forbes list of the richest people in the world, and received €658m ($917M) in share dividends last year. Meanwhile, a female garment worker in Bangladesh works 12 hours a day (no lunch break) and earns just over $900 dollars a year.
It’s not just H&M; Zara, Gap, and similar big clothing brands can do quite a bit more as well. We are not asking for perfection right now. We’re okay with a few polyester blouses in the fall lineup, we know there’ll be imports from the East. We ourselves are not perfect either. We’re simply asking the big players to make an honest effort when it comes to moving the fashion industry towards a more sustainable future.
This is why, this week, we ask them “Who made my clothes?”
Oxfam, a global non-profit organization that works to end injustice of poverty, just published a fascinating (yet sad) report about today’s current state when it comes to inequality in the supply chain. It’s called “Reward work, Not wealth” and I recommend you read it. I decided to share some of the statistics and findings here on the blog, in order to bring awareness to these issues and prove why we actually need a fashion revolution.
In Bangladesh, many young women working in garment factories suffer from repeated urinary tract infections because of not being allowed to go the toilet. (Similarly, a study by Oxfam of poultry workers in the United States found that they were wearing nappies, as they were not permitted to go to the toilet.)
New data from Credit Suisse shows that 42 people now own the same wealth as the bottom 3.7 billion people.
It would cost $2.2bn a year to increase the wages of all 2.5 million Vietnamese garment workers from the average wage to a living wage. This is the equivalent of a third of the amount paid out to shareholders by the top five companies in the garment sector.
Gender inequality is neither an accident nor new: our economies have been built by rich and powerful men for their own sake. The neoliberal economic model has made this worse – reductions in public services, cuts to taxes for the richest, and a race to the bottom on wages and labor rights have all hurt women more than men.
The International Labor Organization has estimated that 40 million people were enslaved in 2016, 25 million of them in forced labor.
We, the fashionistas, can be part of the change, by shopping with intent, researching brands before supporting them and reaching out to them through social media, emails or calls demanding transparent supply chains; fair wages, safe workplaces, eco-friendly materials, local sourcing. Initiatives like H&M’s Conscious Collection is proof that consumers like us indeed have the power to change industries by demanding change.
Which companies are you reaching out to this week?
Fashion Revolution is a global movement that runs all year long, not just on Fashion revolution week! Read more about the movement and the organization behind it at FashionRevolution.org.