Human Trafficking is the second largest international crime. There are an estimated 40 million people in Modern Slavery today. No country, city or industry is immune to it, even the fashion industry.
Slavery can occur on farms, in factories and in homes. For example, forced labour and child labour have been found on cotton farms in Uzbekistan and Pakistan. More recently, concerns have been raised over accusations of forced labour in garment and textiles factories in Xinjiang, China. Evidence of forced labour have been accumulating, including in this research paper.
While factories are subject to labour regulations, clothes are also made in homes or informal settings where it is difficult to impose regulations and protect workers. For example, a report in 2019 exposed widespread forced labour, bonded labour and child labour in India’s home-based garment sector.
Are you supporting slavery without knowing it? For more on this, here’s a podcast on this question.
Fast Fashion: What is it?
You may have heard of the term “Fast Fashion”.
Fast fashion is a business model that markets trendy clothing which are cheap and disposable. The clothes go out of trend very quickly and then new trends are marketed to consumers.
Needless to say, to make this business model work, labour costs must be brought as very low, making conditions for workers ever more exploitative. Fast Fashion also has a terrible impact on the environment.
What’s being done about it?
Fortunately, many in the fashion industry have recognized the problem and taken action. They are trying to make supply chains more transparent and business models more sustainable. Many companies have strengthened the auditing of their supply chains to avoid suppliers who use slavery.
Some fashion companies are even designed and built from the ground-up to be ethical and sustainable. It is worth spending time to search for them and discover their brands.
These companies provide decent jobs for people, which feeds families and supports local economies. They make people less vulnerable to slavery and trafficking. Our job as consumers is to support them, in the hope that this is just the start of much larger, industry-wide shift.
相較於工廠，在人們家中進行的紡織及加工，就更難規管了。有報告 (英文版) 發現，在印度，有很多服裝的加工會被外判給在家工作的婦女及童工，當中強迫勞動及債役的情況普遍。
首先，不少現存的大企業加強了一些措施，例如推行《供應商行為準則》(Supplier Code of Conduct)，並且通過第三方審核確保供應商遵守。又例如找一些可持續發展的認證，讓認證機構監控供應鏈，證明生產方式符合標準。