Ten years ago today, the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, collapsed. The building housed five garment factories – suppliers of well-known fashion brands like Primark and Zara. That day, more than 1,130 people died and 2,500 were injured.
You may think nothing has changed since this tragedy, but thanks to consumer pressure, advocacy and greater industry scrutiny, fashion companies have been making some significant improvements for the workers who make our clothes.
Aid and development organisations, Tearfund and Baptist World Aid have analysed 10 years of Ethical Fashion Research, revealing where the fashion industry has improved and what still needs to be done to prevent exploitation.
Improvement one: Improved traceability
Fashion companies know more about their supply chains. Companies knowing who their suppliers are is the first step towards protecting garment workers from exploitation.
Improvement two: Greater transparency
Companies sharing information about their suppliers means they can be held to account for what’s happening in their supply chains.
Improvement three: More ethical standards
Companies have more ethical standards for their suppliers. Companies sharing the high standard they expect of suppliers helps ensure workers are treated fairly.
“All these improvements reduce the daily risks faced by garment workers. But big changes are still needed to address systemic issues which enable the fashion industry to make billions of dollars in profit from exploiting workers,” says Tearfund’s head of Advocacy, Claire Gray.
“Wages remain low, and most fashion companies do not support important efforts by workers to voice their concerns collectively and demand better working conditions. About 98 per cent of the workers who make our clothes do not earn enough to meet their basic needs for their families despite working long hours and extra overtime.”
Behind these statistics are hard-working people like *Rahela. Rahela has worked in the industry in Bangladesh for more than 20 years.
While she has seen improvements in wages and conditions, she still struggles financially.
“This salary is not enough to support me and my family. You receive your salary from the factory and before even coming home it has been spent on rent, food, and other basic expenses. I dream of a good salary and a better life,” says Rahela.
Gray says while we can celebrate the changes made by fashion companies, the fashion industry is still a long way off from giving their workers the quality of life they deserve.
To find out more and how you can raise your voice for a fashion industry that cares for people and planet click here.