This is the startling headline reporting on the findings of a new report which investigated the practices of over 128 Australian clothing labels. The news is not good. “The report found that only 12% of companies received an A rating for their labour rights management systems, and disturbingly, only 5% of companies had a fully implemented policy to ensure workers received a living wage (a wage sufficient to cover a family’s basic costs of living)” (Ramrakha, 2013). Baptist World Aid Australia, the organisation responsible for the research, has done a thorough job of investigating the entire production chain, from sourcing of the raw materials to sewing the clothes. The report is really easy to read with lots of visual graphs that clearly show which companies we should be supporting and which we should steer clear of. The only two companies to score A’s overall are Etiko and 3Fish. No surprises there as they are two small companies dedicated to fair trade processes. The list of companies that got B’s overall is promising, with Bonds (Pacific Brands), Adidas, Cue, New Balance, Nike, Puma and Levi’s showing improvement. You can order a copy of the Ethical Fashion Guide, a digital or pocket guide that is designed to inform your purchases.
Even though the news is quite bleak, we should celebrate both the fact that this important research has been done and the media interest in it. Small steps in the right direction.