reformation-alpaca-collection-2014-04Introduction to Fashion’s Key Social Issues
Contributor: Ethical Fashion Forum

There are a number of issues that relate to workers and communities that you should consider. Your business decisions, even small ones, can have a direct and indirect impact on people working across fashion’s supply chains. In this article, we explore some of the key human challenges facing the fashion industry

Working conditions
Despite a number of international standards, certifications and government legislation working to tackle human rights at work, working conditions are not up to scratch in many of the places where clothing, accessories and footwear is made. Systematic exploitation remains rife. The harsh reality is that basic health and safety measures do not exist for huge numbers of people working in fashion’s supply chains. The Rana Plaza factory collapse is the most extreme and familiar example.
Producers and garment workers might also face excessive hours, forced overtime, lack of job security, denial of trade union rights, poor health, exhaustion, sexual harassment, discrimination and denial of other basic human rights when on the job. These problems exist not just in places like Bangladesh but also in developed countries like the United Kingdom and USA.
Forced and bonded labour
The Global Slavery Index (2014) estimates that 36 million people are living in modern slavery today, many of whom are working in the supply chains of brands and retailers. According to Maplecroft’s tenth annual Human Rights Risk Atlas (2014), 49 countries are characterised as ‘extreme risk’ in the Forced Labour Index, which include many of the world’s textile and garment producing countries – Argentina, China, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and the Philippines, where regulations do not exist or are poorly implemented. Migrant workers and indigenous people are particularly vulnerable to forced labour.