A report from Drapers today states that budget fashion retailer Primark has created the new role of Ethical Trading Director and is said to be creating a series of other ethical trading roles within their organisation. This shows an effort to show the public and the Ethical Trading Inicitive (who are currently investigating their practice) that they are employing ethical production methods.
This has been prompted after two BBC exposes flagged up the use of child labour in India and the exploitation of immigrant workers in Manchester. Primark has fought back against allegations stating thats its very difficut to maintain ethical standards due to the scale and compelxity of the supply chain. They use aprox 800 suppliers and regulary aduit only half of their supplier.
A report titled “Fashion Victims” published by War on Want in 2006 conveyed that the workers producing our high street clothing pay a larger price – they struggle to survie on low pay, suffer poor working conditions, work very long hours and have no support by trade unions.
I hope that Primarks new inicitive does make a difference by improving working conditions and pay for garment workers. But, I think that we as consumers also have a responsibilty to communicate that we want conditions improved. Its easy to be caught up in the thrill of budget fashion and instant gratfication without full consideration to why this clothing is so cheap and affordable? With the economy in crisis consumers are seeking cheaper alternatives and its very difficult to boycott budget retailers when that’s all that you can afford… But by encouraging retailers to improve their production methods the supply chain will become more transparent allowing us to work together to deleiver affordable fashion in a considerate way – without harming others or the environment.
An interesting case study was Katherine Hamnetts collaboration with Tesco – they worked together to produce her “Choose Love” collection and this was achieved in a sustainble and affordable way proving that it can be done.