Blog: Michelle RussellWorker rights risks rise to the fore

Michelle Russell | 7 September 2020

As fashion brands and retailers begin to reset and reshape their supply chains as they emerge from the global coronavirus pandemic, a new multi-year investigation has identified some of the risks at stake when sourcing from garment factories in Myanmar. Highlighted exclusively on just-style, child labour and audit deception are among the ongoing challenges.

Vietnam clothing industry insiders say they are optimistic that the country's apparel supply chain will emerge strengthened from the Covid-19 crisis in 2021

While Bangladesh's apparel exporters are contemplating diversifying their past tight focus on western markets to include buyers in Southeast Asia.

But the risk of modern slavery in Asia's manufacturing hubs is set to intensify further as the economic fallout from Covid-19 takes full hold – with garment factory workers in Bangladesh and India particularly vulnerable.

Such are concerns over the use of forced labour linked to Xinjiang in China that a coalition of human rights, labour and investor organisations is urging US authorities to impose a ban on imports of all cotton-made goods from the region

And although China continues to hold the crown for global sourcing, its dominance is noticeably less dramatic compared to previous years – particularly in the textile and apparel industry.

While in India, swimwear giant Speedo International is investigating reports of human rights abuses at a factory owned by its licensee Page Industries

Meanwhile, industry observers are confident that new US labelling rules for goods made in Hong Kong will not significantly harm clothing traders and manufacturers operating from the territory. 

On the retail front, US women's wear retailer J.Jill Inc is the latest retailer teetering on the edge of a bankruptcy filing, and has warned the process could begin at the end of this week if it can't agree on a financial restructuring with 95% of its lenders.

And US men's wear retailer Brooks Brothers has new owners after the completion of a US$325m offer tabled by Authentic Brands Group (ABG) and Sparc Group.

In other news, new rules of origin should boost PanEuroMed trade; unions in Cambodia are calling for a US$12 minimum wage increase; and the first facility to process and cottonise hemp fibre in commercial quantities is set to open in the US.

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