Looking back on a successful first Facebook Live Q&A Marathon

date: 25/04/2018

On Fashion Revolution Day – Tuesday 24 April- seventeen Fair Wear Foundation brands opened up online and gave a unique backstage look at what they are doing to make a concrete, lasting difference in the lives of the workers who make their clothes. What a commitment of these brands to answer questions from consumers on the spot!

We were live for more than 9,5 hours and the videos have been viewed more than 31,000 times so far. We are really happy with the results: with this marathon we made a good step towards transparency and we hope this will inspire more brands to open up. The garment industry has great potential to contribute to workers’ lives, and fair supply chains are possible. To make this happen, we need all brands and all other players in this industry on board.

If you missed the livestream, you can watch all videos on our Facebook pageThe videos are organised per brand so you can zoom straight to the brand of your choice and hear what they had to say about their approach to fair fashion.

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FWF op-ed: Five Years after Rana Plaza: we need all brands on board

date: 23/04/2018

Five years ago today, over 1,000 garment workers were killed when the Rana Plaza building collapsed. Since then, certain responsible garment brands have made remarkable progress towards improving factory safety. However, problems are still widespread, deeply rooted and include many other labour-rights issues. We need a transformation of this industry. To make that happen, all garment brands need to take on an active role and be held accountable for what happens in their supply chains.

There are signs of change. Some of our visits to Bangladeshi factories in recent years have been quite encouraging. We can see that the Bangladesh Accord managed to achieve specific improvements in structural, fire, and electrical safety at garment factories. Other industry initiatives demonstrated the benefit of uniting coalitions of leading garment brands to work on better conditions. However, the brands that do use their leverage to try to improve garment workers’ lives do not cover all garment factories worldwide, not even those in Bangladesh.

Dictating the laws
We need all brands on board. Say you own a garment brand and you also want workers at the opposite end of the supply chain to profit from the brand’s successes, as they should. You start discussing wages and safety measures with factory managers. They are happy to work with a brand that is willing to share responsibility.  

You’re confident that you will succeed in creating change, especially if you’re joining forces with other brands that source from that factory. You purchase 10 percent of the factory’s output. Another well-known brand buys 50 percent and 11 others only a small share. However, they appear to be less interested in your mission, which means you can only achieve so much.

Brands are hardly ever a factory’s only buyer. They usually don’t own or manage the factories from which they source. They also do not dictate the laws of garment production countries. Still, brands have tremendous leverage over both. They have economic power to demand improvement of conditions. And as the main beneficiaries and drivers of the garment industry, brands have a huge responsibility for the welfare of the workers who make their clothes.

Who made your clothes?
Along with quality and price requirements, garment brands can also call for decent working conditions. First they need to know exactly where their clothes are actually made, understand their supply chain and the risks of (hidden) subcontractors. Brands must scrutinise their suppliers, conduct research and resolve problems with the factory when they occur; it’s all too easy to do a quick check of factories and decide that nothing is wrong and that it should come down to the factory to solve matters.

Also, the purchasing practices of brands have a huge influence, positive or negative, on the lives of employees in clothing factories. Brands need to be willing to change their business practices, like better production planning to reduce pressure on factories, and adjusting prices.

Bad for business
No garment brand would say that they want to produce their clothes at the expense of the workers who sew them. This is bad for people, business and reputation. Consumers, civil society and governments are placing mounting pressure on brands to start working on safer workplaces and to be more transparent. International guidelines and -in some countries- changing regulations also mean that brands have an increased duty to ensure that their clothing is produced under good conditions. Change is in motion and brands need to get on board before they get left behind.

Everyone on board
There are garment brands (at Fair Wear Foundation we know them all too well) that are investing in trying to make a concrete, lasting difference in the lives of garment workers. Although these brands aren’t perfect, they do act and achieve results. However, they cannot resolve the issues on their own, and it’s not just in their supply chains that problems occur. We need all brands on board.

And not just the brands either, but everyone else. In most cases, you can only do so much before it comes down to a need for systemic change in the industry. Therefore we also need governments, NGOs, factories, garment workers, trade unions, and consumers to contribute their strengths.

Great potential
Wages are often too low and overtime persistent. There is violence and harassment on the factory floor. But the garment industry doesn’t have to be like this. On the contrary: the industry has great potential to contribute positively to women workers’ lives, and fair supply chains are possible. All garment brands must take responsibility for what they sell. We know that sustainable changes don’t happen overnight, but brands can and should start tomorrow. Not by creating only one sustainable product in their collections, but by changing the way they do business in order to support positive changes at factories and contribute to ensuring garment production countries flourish.  

Margreet Vrieling
Associate Director of Fair Wear Foundation

(This op-ed was published on Tuesday 24 April on The Fashion Law)

 

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GARMENT BRANDS OPEN UP DURING Q&A MARATHON ON FASHION REVOLUTION DAY

date: 17/04/2018

On Fashion Revolution Day—Tuesday 24 April—a group of Fair Wear brands will join a live online Q&A marathon. The garment brands will answer questions on the spot about what they are doing to improve labour conditions for garment workers.

Seventeen Fair Wear Foundation members will join the Facebook Livestream. They will give a unique backstage look at what they are doing to make a concrete, lasting difference in the lives of the workers who make their clothes. After 30 minutes of Q&A, the next brand will take the stage.

Facebook Live QA Schedule Fashion Revolution Week

Transparent
Do they visit their factories? What does it mean to be a member of Fair Wear Foundation? How do they prove that they have taken substantial steps towards better labour conditions? What are their plans for the future?

The participating brands will answer these and other questions on the Fair Wear Foundation Facebook page on Tuesday 24 April. FWF staff from Bangladesh, India and Myanmar will also join the marathon to respond to questions.

Find out what time your favourite brand tunes in and set the date in your agenda!

Date: Tuesday 24 April 2018
Time: 10:00 CET
Location: Fair Wear Foundation Facebook page

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First international field trip for new FWF director

date: 17/04/2018

FWF’s new director Alexander Kohnstamm just returned from his first FWF trip in Asia. Alexander visited Bangladesh and India, two of FWF’s most important garment production countries.

Alexander’s first stop was Dhaka, Bangladesh. The purpose of this mission, which took place from 31 March to 4 April, was to meet relevant stakeholders and partner organisations and get a sense of the labour conditions in the garment sector, both formal and informal.

Breaking the silence
The mission was conducted jointly with Catelene Passchier, vice-chair of the governing body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Catelene and Alexander presented the Dutch Ambassador in Bangladesh with Breaking the Silence, a new FWF publication on the violence and harassment prevention programme in Bangladesh and India.

During the trip, Alexander joined an audit and met members of a factory’s anti-harassment committee. He also visited stakeholders including the ILO, IndustriALL, the Ministry of Labour and Employment and the Bangladesh Accord. The meetings generated interesting discussions on the new legal minimum wage level, pricing policies of brands and the threshold for union registration.

Unions
Alexander continued on to India, visiting stakeholders and factories and gaining a good first impression of the FWF work in the region. ‘Fair Wear brands and the factories they work with, have made good progress’, he said. ‘At the same time, there is room for improvement, for example in making sure that workers have access to free labour unions and receive a living wage.’

Find out more about our work in India and Bangladesh.

Related

country: bangladesh
Labour standards:

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FWF urges Cambodian government to take action on labour rights

date: 22/03/2018

Fair Wear Foundation has joined other influential organisations in signing a letter urging the Cambodian government to take immediate action to promote labour rights.

The letter reinforces the organisations’ worries about recent developments in the country, which have weakened human rights protection and undermined progress towards improved worker rights.

Big international brands
The other signatories of the letter were Amfori, the Fair Labour Organization, the Ethical Trading Initiative, American Apparel and Footwear Association, and Social Accountability International. These organisations represent major international brands and retailers across Europe and the U.S., including more than 200 buyers who source Cambodian garments, footwear, and travel goods.

Some FWF members are sourcing from Cambodia, but FWF is not active in the country. CNV Internationaal, FWF’s partner in the Strategic Partnership for Garment Supply Chain Transformation, is. CNV has direct relations with local trade unions in Cambodia that have been faced with charges.

You can read a copy of the letter here.

Related

country: cambodia
Labour standards:

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FWF and Dutch Minister Kaag discuss labour conditions Vietnam

date: 19/03/2018

FWF’s Duong Thi Viet Anh met with the Dutch minister for foreign trade and development, Sigrid Kaag, during her recent visit to Vietnam. They discussed how FWF works to improve conditions in one of the world’s largest garment-sourcing countries.

Minister Kaag met with different local NGOs to discuss corporate social responsibility. FWF’s country representative in Vietnam, Duong Thi Viet Anh, was present to share information about FWF’s work in Vietnam and the responsibilities of international companies and Vietnamese suppliers to comply with human rights standards.

FWF believes that the Dutch government can play an important role in promoting the implementation of the EU-VN FTA agreement and also encouraging civil society organisations to participate.

Vietnam
In recent years, Vietnam has become a major player in the global textile industry, particularly for the outdoor, sports and shoes sector. With a workforce of more than 2 million in the textiles industry, textiles was Vietnam’s largest export sector in 2017.

FWF has a local audit team in Ho Chi Minh City with an additional worker interviewer and complaints handler in Hanoi. FWF works with the employers association VCCI, the Vietnam Ministry of Labour and a number of grassroots labour NGOs in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Hai Phuong.  FWF’s activities in Vietnam further focus on the implementation of the Workplace Education Programme, to raise awareness on labour rights and grievance mechanisms.

Related

country: vietnam
Labour standards:

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FWF celebrates International Women’s Day

date: 08/03/2018

Today FWF celebrates International Women’s Day, a global day to honour the achievements of women. This day also marks a call for increased gender parity.

Violence against women is one of the most widespread violations of human rights. A disturbingly high percentage of garment workers have reported experiencing some form of harassment or violence—ranging from verbal and physical abuse and sexual harassment, to forced labour, assault and rape.

HOW IS FWF CONTRIBUTING TO CHANGE?
The good news is that garment workers are beginning to speak up about these problems. For example, in Bangladesh, garment workers and factories have worked with FWF to set up anti-harassment committees, which can file grievances on behalf of garment workers who have experienced harassment.

This project could not be successful without FWF brands. They need to work very closely with their suppliers to establish such committees and make sure these function. In this new FWF Best Practice video, FWF brand Stanley/Stella takes us to a factory where workers handle cases of harassment in cooperation with factory management.

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FWF partners with ASN Bank on living wage implementation

date: 27/02/2018

FWF is happy to partner up with the Dutch ASN Bank. The two will cooperate to share and further develop living wage expertise.

FWF will cooperate with ASN in defining the role investors can play in promoting progress towards living wages and in developing a set of tools investors can use to better assess the performance of clothing brands.

Investors are a relatively new actor in the living wage debate but they can have a large impact on the behaviour of brands. FWF’s director Alexander Kohnstamm calls the partnership with ASN ‘an exciting first step into an important new arena for FWF’.

‘Financial institutions have an important role to play in making the garment industry more sustainable’, says Kohnstamm. ‘We look forward to entering a structural working relationship with the investment community.’

 

 

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New FWF Director Alexander Kohnstamm—Welcome!

date: 08/02/2018

FWF is very pleased to announce the name of its new executive director, Alexander Kohnstamm. Alexander has a lot experience working at NGOs and international businesses.

His most recent job was director of external affairs at PharmAccess Foundation, an organisation dedicated to connecting more people in Sub-Saharan Africa to better healthcare. Before that, he was the executive director of Partos—the Dutch platform for development organisations.

However, Alexander’s career did not start in the development sector: he first worked as a marketing manager at Sony Europe and the Mitsubishi Group. This experience will be beneficial when interacting with FWF members: European garment brands.

Common ground
The FWF team looks forward to working with Alexander. ‘I’m sure he will be an excellent representative of FWF,’ says Chair of the FWF Board, Anita Normark. ‘We chose Alexander because he is smart, engaged and enthusiastic. He has supply-chain experience, speaks fluent English and German, and is used to working with a wide range of stakeholders.’

Alexander is eager to start his new position. ‘In my experience, development goals can only be reached if key stakeholders find common ground and collaborate despite their inherent differences. Specifically, we need to work together on private solutions for social issues. I believe the members, stakeholders and professionals involved in FWF have uniquely positioned the foundation to lead the industry in improving supply chains.’

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Vietnamese supplier seminar on grievance mechanisms

date: 16/01/2018

In December, 63 Vietnamese factory managers and agents gathered in Ho Chi Minh City for what proved to be a successful FWF supplier seminar.

This seminar focused on grievance systems. FWF explained its complaints mechanism by presenting several complaints cases employees had filed. Two suppliers also presented their own internal grievance mechanisms.

Following the presentations, the participants discussed concrete ideas, tools and methods for implementing effective grievance mechanisms in their factories. They also talked about different channels for workers to express complaints and various ways to give feedback to workers.

The seminar took place within the framework of the Strategic Partnership for Garment Supply Chain Transformation.

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