Sustainability in the garment value chain requires binding rules and traceability

This week, DEVCO hosted the conference: “Sustainability efforts in the garment value chain”. With the expertise of Mr. Raul Richero and Mr. Simon Ferrigno, the conference aimed to shed light on the following questions: what does “doing business” mean in practice in the context of the global garment industry? How much do companies know about those supply chains and the products they sell (traceability)? And how much are they willing to tell consumers (transparency)?

Today, only 22% of garments are produced in Europe, meaning that the remaining 78% are produced in countries such as China, Bangladesh, Turkey and India among others. Major companies decide to delocalise their production to the global south to take advantage of the cheap labour force and weak monitoring of the respect of fundamental international labour standards.  In this context, traceability and transparency is more than necessary. The experts highlighted two main elements: 1) that fashion brands are not too concerned about what goes on in the supply chain and are not very amenable to initiatives aimed at improving transparency; 2) The lack of awareness among consumers.

SOLIDAR believes that transparency and traceability are essential to ensure a responsible management of the global supply chain, especially given its massive scope and the real social and environmental problems it creates. Over the last 12 years, clothing has become cheaper in Europe, while the working conditions of the people who work in the garment production chains remain – in too many cases -detrimental.

Although acknowledging the importance of transparency and traceability in the global supply chain, SOLIDAR, as reiterated during the 105th ILO conference last year, believes that legally binding instruments should be adopted in order to bring a real change to the lives of workers in the sector and, as stressed in the recently adopted Opinion of the European Parliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) on the EU Flagship Initiative on the Garment Sector, considers that “responsibility should extend throughout  the entire supply chain, including all sub-contractors […] and the EU is best placed to develop a common framework creating a legal obligation of corporate human rights due diligence for EU garment companies outsourcing production to third countries”.

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