UK, Danish and Norwegian apparel companies are being urged to take a more strategic, coordinated, proactive approach to sustainable sourcing as part of a new briefing.

'Living wages in global supply chains: a new agenda for business’ has been launched by the Ethical Trading Initiatives in the UK, Denmark and Norway, all recognising a need for further information to help companies play their part in raising wage levels.

The briefing takes a whole-systems approach, drawing on the experiences of member companies, trade unions, NGOs, and governments. It shows that while individual companies have had some success in raising wages through supplier projects, this has not been sustainable, or at a sector-wide level.

"We know that companies are really struggling to tackle low wages in their supply chains," said ETI director Peter McAllister. "This briefing highlights the complexity of this issue, where a number of factors combine to keep wages at poverty levels. But we hope that companies reading this will take heart that they can have a positive influence. There is no quick-fix solution, but much can be achieved by working in collaboration and taking a sector-wide approach to wage improvements."

The briefing covers how to gain buy-in at a senior level to addressing supply chain wages, outlining the benefits for businesses and workers. It also highlights case studies in the garment sector, where companies have joined with other stakeholders on creating the right conditions for setting wage levels.

It suggests a number of strategies that can be adapted by companies, including analysing the root causes of low wages in supply chains; collaboration; reviewing and revising own commercial practices; and taking a sector-wide approach.

The briefing, jointly commissioned by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), the Danish Ethical Trading Initiative (DIEH) and the Ethical Trading Initiative Norway (IEH), was written and researched by UK ethical trade consultancy Ergon Associates.

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