Fair Wear at the SAC Annual Meeting and GFA Summit
16 November, 2022
Fair Wear joined both the SAC Annual Meeting and the Global Fashion Agenda Summit in Singapore to promote collaboration and alliances across the garment industry. The meeting took place in Singapore from 1st – 2nd November, convening some 500 delegates to explore the role of the industry in protecting the planet and its people.
The theme of this year’s SAC Annual Meeting was: “Collective Action for Common Ground”. This theme has been chosen at a momentous time and captures what we believe at Fair Wear – that it is only when we work together that we can create system-wide change and improve workers’ conditions in the garment supply chain. Indeed, at Fair Wear, we know that we cannot achieve our ambitious goals alone. That’s why we work as a convenor, proactively initiating and participating in partnerships to boost industry alignment and share knowledge.
The annual meeting and the GFA Summit proved to be incredibly insightful. Speakers and participants alike had impactful discussions on the road towards a fair and sustainable garment industry for both people and planet. Given that this shared goal is still far from reality, Fair Wear used these days to advocate and plead for alliances, collaboration, and improved brand action on human rights due diligence. Our director, Alexander Kohnstamm, spoke on several panels to communicate our vision and ideate with other industry leaders:
During the panel titled “Higg FSLM, SLCP, Social and Labor Strategy” on the role, importance, and value of the convergence of data, Alexander focussed on the need for coproduction in the space of data convergence in brands’ human rights due diligence processes (in line with the OECD) and the role that purchasing practices play in this field: “In our fragmented and competitive industry, we have been largely unable to deliver systemic impact. What we need is collective action, common ground, and critical mass behind these important (exemplary) projects,” says Kohnstamm.
On the panel on “Highlighting Diverse Approaches to Achieving Responsible Purchasing Practices Between Brands and Manufacturers”, Alexander emphasised the power imbalances that currently exist in the supply chain between brands and manufacturers. The research on this is clear: poor purchasing practices directly impact human rights conditions. As such, he stressed that companies have a duty to conduct human rights due diligence for their international activities and that revising their purchasing practices is an essential element of this: “Too many brands still focus on the short-term cost reductions rather than long-term equal partnerships, which deliver more value and are better for business. With the Common Framework for Responsible Purchasing Practices, and tools such as the Fair Price app on living wages, there is no excuse for brands not to work on it,” says Kohnstamm.
We were also able to contribute to the panel on “Disruption for Better Wage Systems” where Alexander, on behalf of The Industry We Want (TIWW), made a plea for the industry to work together to achieve a living wage. Our stance on living wage at Fair Wear is clear. It is a human right, and to ensure that the people who make our clothes can meet their basic needs, there needs to be structural change involving the whole industry. It is for this reason that Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Ethical Trading Initiative, and Fair Wear joined forces together to form TIWW, so that we can achieve this common goal. TIWW delivers a yearly dashboard to show progress made in social, environmental, and commercial conditions of purchasing practices: “The wage indicator clearly shows that there is a 55% average gap between minimum wage and living wage, which means a minimum wage worker makes half of what they need to in order to sustain a family. This number is even worse in some countries,” says Kohnstamm.
Kohnstamm further emphasised that a crucial next step towards ensuring that brands pay prices that enable a living wage is for brands to implement an HRDD process that is in line with the OECD Guidelines. This is especially needed given the upcoming legislation.
Overall, the events were a great success, and we are eager to see concrete change resulting from these various important discussions.