Fashion labels in Australia found to need modern slavery laws

Image courtesy of Mighty Good Undies

Image courtesy of Mighty Good Undies

Authors of the annual Baptist World Aid Ethical Fashion Report have said Australian apparel companies need modern slavery laws in order to clean up their supply chains and become more ethical.

The  report, which examines labour rights management systems in the fashion industry, was published on Wednesday. Stressing the importance of the living wage, the report noted that the proportion of companies that could show they had improved their workers' wages is now 42%, up 11% since 2013. However, the report says it is worth noting "wages are still below a living wage level and only apply to a portion of workers in the supply chain."

106 companies were put under microscope as part of the report. With policies, worker empowerment, knowledge of suppliers and auditing & supplier relationships being the grading categories.

This follows the UK's Modern Slavery Act 2015 which focusses on the prosecution and prevention of modern slavery within the UK. This law means global businesses who supply any goods within the UK who have a turnover of more than £36m are obliged to produce a statement on trafficking and slavery annually, and publish it within a "prominent" place on their website.

Gershon Nimbalker, Baptist World Aid advocacy manager, told The Guardian Australia that modern slavery laws in the UK "has absolutely lifted the consciousness people have that companies need to be doing more, or at least being seen to do more, to address the problems of slavery throughout its supply chain.” Stressing that Australia would benefit from similar laws being put in place.

The report notes that: "Knowing suppliers is a key pillar of a strong labour rights management system. If brands don’t know or don’t care who their suppliers are, there is virtually no way of ensuring that the workers who make their products are not being exploited."

Grading the companies from A to F, the Ethical Fashion Report looks at each company's systems to mitigate against the risks of forced labour, child labour, and exploitation in their supply chains. 

Arcadia Group, Abercrombie and Fitch and UNIQLO were all graded a D or below for their Worker Empowerment. Whereas companies such as Mighty Good Undies, RREPP and Etiko had a B+ or above. 

newsRuby AbbissComment