Press release: 'Covid-19 is a human rights crisis'

AMSTERDAM – On Tuesday, Fair Wear Foundation launched a Covid 19-dossier on its website to guide garment brands during the Covid-19 crisis. ‘The lives of millions of garment workers are at stake’, says Fair Wear director Alexander Kohnstamm. ‘It’s crucial that during this crisis all players in the garment industry show what responsible business looks like.’

The Covid-19 pandemic is hitting garment supply chains hard. International garment brands are struggling to stay afloat. On the other end of the supply chain, the impact is devastating. Thousands of factories in garment producing countries have (partially) shut down. As a result, millions of factory workers have been sent home, many without any income to sustain their families, let alone protect them in this crisis.

Work with your suppliers – don’t cancel orders

In Fair Wear’s Covid-19 dossier, visitors will find Fair Wear’s guidance for different production countries as well as reports regarding the impact of Covid-19 on the garment sector. The dossier contains a section containing special guidance for brands, in which Fair Wear urges brands to not cancel orders that are (almost) ready to be shipped, to anticipate changes or delays in production and to be flexible about delivery dates.

‘During this human rights crisis, it is more important than ever that Fair Wear supports its member brands in upholding their obligations towards garment workers in their supply chains’, says Alexander Kohnstamm. ‘However, we also recognise that brands are facing extremely difficult times. It is clear that the scale and scope of this outbreak reach beyond the power of individual brands and retailers. Governments of garment-producing countries need to provide social security for workers. Crucially, economic support measures taken by European governments should also take into account the millions of people that are making our clothes.’

It’s crucial that during this crisis all players in the garment industry show what responsible business looks like.

Alexander Kohnstamm, Fair Wear Executive Director

Global approach

Behind the scenes, Fair Wear is in active consultation with likeminded organisations. Kohnstamm: ‘This crisis exposes how vulnerable workers are in this fragmented, global value chain. And it also shows how interdependent we are: when business picks up again, many of the factories that brands rely on may well be out of business. So, there is a human as well as a business imperative for the industry to embrace a New Normal, in which fair prices and living wages are the norm. Many of our member brands are doing everything they can, and we will support them in their efforts to protect workers. The outbreak makes it clear that there is an urgent need to change this industry for good!’