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Apparel, footwear brands failing to tackle exploitation

Dec '18
Apparel, footwear brands failing to tackle exploitation
Apparel and footwear firms are failing to tackle exploitation of workers in their supply chains, according to a report by KnowTheChain, a benchmark that measures companies' efforts to address forced labour. KnowTheChain's analysis gives the apparel and footwear sector an average overall score of 37 out of 100. More than two-thirds of firms scored below 50.

Eighteen companies scored 0 out of 100 on recruitment, which measures a company's approach to reducing the risk of exploitation of workers by recruitment agencies, eliminating workers' payment of fees during the recruitment processes, and protecting the rights of migrant workers.

While the 2018 benchmark shows improvement from the sector since KnowTheChain's 2016 benchmark, industry-wide progress is uneven and lacking on key issues like responsible recruitment, an area directing affecting vulnerable workers' lives, according to a company press release.

KnowTheChain is a partnership between San Francisco-based Humanity United, London-based Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, Amsterdam-based Sustainalytics and Verité in Amherst, Massachusetts.

Despite decades of public scrutiny over labour conditions in the industry, workers, particularly migrants and women, are often exploited through force, fraud or coercion, said KnowTheChain. Many work for little or no pay, cut off from their homes or families, and with restrictions on their movement or opportunities for recourse.

Workers are often charged exorbitant recruitment fees that they can never repay, further trapping them in debt bondage and forced labour.

"No one should have to pay for their job," said Kilian Moote, KnowTheChain project director. "We need to see stronger action from apparel and footwear brands to ensure vulnerable workers are recruited ethically and that their voices and grievances are heard across all their supply chains."

The apparel and footwear sector is increasingly reliant on migrant labour.

Adidas and Lululemon are the only companies that require the direct employment of workers in their supply chains, thus eliminating the risk of exploitation through employment agencies. These companies also offered evidence that their grievance mechanism is accessible to and actively used by workers in the second tier of their supply chains.

The lowest scoring companies include luxury brands Prada (5/100) and Salvatore Ferragamo (13/100), footwear companies Skechers (7/100) and Foot Locker (12/100), and suppliers Eclat Textile and Yue Yuen, both with 1/100. (DS)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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