Citing concerns over a lack of progress in tackling exploitation at factories that supply to major fashion brands, UK-based lawmakers feel that Britain needs a garment industry watchdog to stop labour abuses, from low pay to poor working conditions.
According to Parliament’s Environmental Audit Committee (EAC), which has been examining fashion sustainability since 2018, the Government should set up a Garment Trade Adjudicator to ensure retailers treat their supplier factories fairly.
Philip Dunne, Chairman, EAC said in a letter to Britain’s department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), “Brands and retailers often wield considerable economic power in comparison to the suppliers they source clothes from. A Garment Trade Adjudicator could help to ensure undue economic pressure is not placed on suppliers to cut corners on pay and conditions. We suspect this would have more effect, more rapidly, than introducing a licensing system.”
The British Retail Consortium – a trade association – has proposed a licensing scheme to stop rogue firms from accessing the market and undercutting legitimate fashion manufacturers.
“We continue to engage with the sector to understand the systemic issues that lead to non-compliance and what measures can be used to tackle them,” BEIS said in a statement.
The EAC said the adjudicator could follow the example of the grocery’s industry watchdog, which has the power to investigate brands’ purchasing practices and supplier relationships, issue recommendations, ‘name and shame’ offenders and impose fines.
“We urgently need legislation to regulate the purchasing practices of brands,” said Meg Lewis, Campaigns Director at NGO Labour Behind the Label.
“We welcome the (Garment Trade Adjudicator) initiative which focuses on brand behaviour rather than licensing options which put the focus on suppliers and let the brands off the hook.”