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May 3, 2022

The week in review: The shape of fashion ethics post-Covid and Rana Plaza?

As the fashion industry marks nine years since Rana Plaza, Just Style asks what learnings have been made in terms of ethics during the Covid pandemic and how has the shift towards tackling sustainability affected human rights within the sector?

By Laura Husband

It’s been nine years since the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh shook the apparel industry to its core and the world was forced to see the unnecessary risks those workers had to make to produce clothing on that fateful day.

In an exclusive opinion piece for Just Style, University of Aberdeen’s Business School Professor Muhammad Azizul Islam suggests the Rana Plaza tragedy has not changed the apparel industry’s attitude towards human ethics today. In fact, he argues that his research highlights the similarities between Rana Plaza and the ongoing Covid pandemic. He explains that despite the social audits retailers use, workers’ economic and human rights have not improved, while retailers’ revenues continue to balloon and factory owners continue to get rich. 

The Clean Clothes Campaign agrees and is calling out a number of big name fashion brands, which it says are ‘freeriding’ on the success of those who have signed the International Accord for Health and Safety following the Rana Plaza disaster. The organisation goes as far as to say that some of the factories these brands source from continue to have the same safety risks that were prevalent in the industry before Rana Plaza.

Ethics-based business practices is also a topic of concern for the chairman of the Global Shippers’ Forum and chairman of the Logistics Sub Committee of the Apparel Logistics Committee at the Joint Apparel Association Forum Sri Lanka (JAAFSL). In an exclusive interview with Just Style Sean Van Dort points out fashion brands have put pressure on manufacturing partners to raise their game in terms of ethical and sustainable practices. However, he says many fashion brands have failed to level up their own performance in this front, adopting unfair business practices that put their suppliers at risk.  

In recent years the criticisms directed at the fashion industry have shifted towards sustainability with human rights issues arguably being swept to one side in favour of reduced carbon emissions goals. Sustainability is of course a major problem facing the world right now but should it be used as a smoke and mirror for taking care of the people working within the sector? Or can both human rights issues and sustainability issues be solved together? 

In an exclusive feature Just Style analysed the emissions reduction targets for over 1,000 apparel companies to see which ones are leading the way. There are some encouraging results already but we also need to see how these same companies shape up when it comes to tackling human rights and wider ethics issues. 

OPINION: Social audits, modern slavery — Covid shows apparel industry did not learn from Rana Plaza disaster

The University of Aberdeen’s Business School Professor Muhammad Azizul Islam, who has conducted research on apparel workers in Bangladesh, finds the similarities between the way garment workers were treated during the pandemic and the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh. The Professor and his colleagues explain retailers’ social audits have not improved workers’ economic or human rights, yet retail revenues continue to grow.

Clean Clothes Campaign calls brands out for ‘freeriding on others’ health, safety efforts

As the world marks nine years since the Rana Plaza garment factory disaster in Bangladesh, the Clean Clothes Campaign is calling on fashion brands such as Levi Strauss, Gap, VF Corp and Target to sign the International Accord for Health and Safety, claiming they are “freeriding” on the progress that has already been made.

INTERVIEW: Why fashion brands must walk the talk in ethical business practices

In an exclusive interview with Just Style, the chairman of the Global Shippers’ Forum and chairman of the Logistics Sub Committee of the Apparel Logistics Committee at the Joint Apparel Association Forum Sri Lanka (JAAFSL), Sean Van Dort, explains why fashion brands’ unfair trade practices violate trade ethics and regulations.

EXCLUSIVE: Are apparel industry emissions targets ambitious enough?

Just Style analysed the emissions reduction targets of 1,138 companies in the apparel industry to find out which ones are leading the way, and which ones are lagging behind on their commitments.

Top stories on Just Style this week… 

World Bank warns 40% rise in cotton prices as Ukraine war bites

Esquel Group cuts Sri Lanka production on US order lull

China commits to eliminating forced labour with two new ratifications

Better Cotton accelerates rate of change with new impact targets

Evolushein: Shein launches first positive impact collection with recycled polyester

JCPenney owner’s bid for Kohl’s could be a risky move

Fast fashion drops in value post-covid, sportswear brands reign supreme

Better Cotton backs panel investing $1.27m to tackle traceability






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