Impact on brands and workers in garment supply chains

The COVID-19 outbreak has an enormous impact on garment brands and their supply chains. This is an extraordinary situation that affects us all. While brands and retailers are closing shops and are struggling to keep their businesses afloat, on the other end of the supply chain, workers — the vast majority women — are being subjected to massive layoffs. Immediate survival is now on everybody’s mind, but for long-term survival, the interdependence of all supply chain actors and the mutual interest of maintaining partnerships between brands and factories remain key.

Fair Wear sees it as its role, during this crisis as well as in general, to support its member brands in upholding their responsibility towards the garment workers in their supply chains. It is clear that the scale and scope of the COVID-19 outbreak and its consequences reach beyond the power of individual garment brands and retailers. Economic support measures taken by European governments should take into account the dire human rights situation created by the outbreak. And at the same time, factory closures and mass layoffs show more poignantly than ever before the urgency of production country governments providing better social security and safety nets for workers.

Fair Wear is working closely with other Multi-Stakeholder Initiatives, Trade Unions and industry organisations to call on governments to support the industry and its workers through this crisis. We are also closely following our member brands: the issues they are facing, the ways they are trying to mitigate the risks to workers, and the questions they have about the situation. With our teams in garment producing countries, we are monitoring the local situation and looking for the most effective measures brands and factories can take to support workers through this crisis.

The guidelines in this document outline what we believe to be the biggest risks from a workers’-rights perspective, based on analysis and input from stakeholders. Fair Wear’s role and expertise is in taking garment workers as a starting point and elaborating on what should happen to mitigate risks. Fair Wear recognises that there is a gender-differential impact of COVID-19, which is taken into account in our response strategies at the brand, country and international levels.

We will provide guidance for responsible human rights due diligence practices, the kind of measures members can take to de-escalate the situation; how we can support them; and, ultimately, how we will assess their performance during this crisis.

As we will continue to follow the developments and learn about the best ways to support workers through this crisis, we will publish the most recent information on our website as well as our Member Hub (accessible to Fair Wear members only).

Click through the chapters below, or download the full guidance document here.