On November 24th in 2012 a fire broke out in The Tazreen clothing factory in Dhaka. Around 100 people died that day, and over 200 were injured. In 2013, on the 24th of April, another accident happened. The Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed. In this accident, almost 1200 people died, and over 2500 people were injured.
These accidents shed a light on the fast fashion industry and showed how little the companies cared for their worker’s rights. These factories and many others were located in third world countries where there is little interest in the health and safety of the employees. Yearly around 1.4 million people are injured due to the unsafe working environment in the fashion industry.
The horrors of the fashion industry: the conditions
We know that most of our clothes are made in countries where workers’ rights are limited or non-existent. Still, we choose to look the other way.
The working conditions for the employees in these countries are horrendous. They work up to 16 hours per day, unable to feed their families. It is not uncommon for children to be working in the fashion industry since it requires low skilled workers. There are even extreme cases where there is forced labor. An example of this is Uzbekistan where around 1 million people are forced to leave their regular jobs to work on the cotton fields since it is the largest export product of the country.
In the factories where all the clothing is made, there is no ventilation. The garment workers inhale all the chemicals that they are working with, causing health problems. Next to this, the employees suffer from verbal, and sometimes even physical abuse when they do not meet the goal of the day.
Besides, the factory buildings are unsafe not fitting the structural safety that is required. Fires, and collapsing of the buildings is not uncommon, and many accidents happen on the work floor. In 2013, after the collapse of the Rana Plaza survivors came out and told stories about how they already noticed the cracks in the walls and floors, but their fear was dismissed.
What can we do?
Sustainable fashion is not only about the environment. It is also about the workers in the supply chain. It is about treating each other with respect and making sure that everyone has a fair wage and safe working conditions. This is something we also have to take into consideration if we want to build a sustainable wardrobe.
As consumers, there are many things we can do to ensure that our clothes are ethically made. Here are a few tips:
Skip fast fashion
Fast fashion is horrible for the environment. But it is also horrible for the people. Fast fashion companies want to make the clothes as cheap as possible so they can keep their prices low. Because of this, these companies move their production, and factories to countries where there is no minimum wage or a low minimum wage. By saying skip fast fashion I do not mean only buy super expensive handmade sustainable clothing. I mean think about what you need. Don’t just buy clothes to follow trends. It’s not worth it.
Corporate Social Responsibility Report
Corporate social responsibility is also known as a sustainable business practice. With this report companies take responsibility for their impact made on people, the planet, and society. With this report, you address poor working conditions, pollution, and poverty. CSR is not yet legislated, however, it benefits many companies. Take a look at the CSR report of the companies where you most often shop. In this report, you can see whether they care about ethics, and provide their employees with the minimum living wage, and safe working conditions.
Research the brand you love. Take a look at where they make their clothing, and what kind of policies they have. You can also use websites or apps to see whether or not a brand is sustainable and ethical. GOOD ON YOU is an amazing website where you can find information about almost every fashion brand. They also have an app available, so you can take a look wherever you go. Other websites like know the chain and ethical consumer are amazing too.
The accident in the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh started a fashion revolution. Thousands of people died that day making our clothes so that we could look all pretty, and fashionable. The fashion revolution was set up in memory of the people that died on the 24th of April in 2013. The fashion revolution wants to see a change in the industry. No more exploiting people, or destroying our planet. And they have been very successful already. Many companies have changed their policies because of the revolution. However, it is not done yet. Take a look at the website of Fashion Revolution, and read their manifesto.