Have you ever shopped at American Eagle, Carter's, Forever 21, Ralph Lauren, or Wal-Mart? Do you know how to find out exactly where those clothes were made, and under what conditions? Neither do we!
We often lack meaningful information about where our clothes and shoes were made. A T-shirt label might say “Made in China,” but in which of the country’s thousands of factories was it made? What were the working conditions of the workers—mostly women—in these factories?
The need for information about factories manufacturing for global brands has become painfully clear in recent years through deadly garment factory catastrophes. The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh on April 24, 2013 killed over 1,100 garment workers and injured more than 2,000. In the year before the collapse, two factory fires—one in Pakistan’s Ali Enterprises factory and another in Bangladesh’s Tazreen Fashions factory—killed more than 350 workers and left many others with serious disabilities.
When these tragedies occurred, virtually no public information was available about the brands that were sourcing from these factories. The only way to hold these apparel companies accountable was to interview survivors and rummage through the rubble to find brand labels.
Four years have passed since these tragedies. It’s time for industry-wide transparency. As a result of civil society pressure, over the past decade a growing number of global apparel companies have published information about factories that manufacture their branded products. But too many remain in the shadows.
Demanding that apparel companies publish their supplier factory information could help workers by allowing unions and other labor advocates to alert brands to labor abuses in these factories. Knowing the multitude of brands that a factory produces for can help brands co-operate on solutions to labor rights problems.
The new “Transparency Pledge” for apparel and footwear brands aims to create a level playing field in the garment industry. Brands that join the pledge will publish key information about their supplier factories. Developed by a civil society coalition, the Transparency Pledge is a crucial starting point for shedding light on who made your clothes. You can read more about the Transparency Pledge and the civil society coalition that developed it in a new report, Follow the Thread.
Coalition members wrote to more than 70 apparel companies, asking them to agree to implement a Transparency Pledge and publish information about factories where their brands are produced.
We are calling on American Eagle, Carter's, Forever 21, Ralph Lauren, and Wal-Mart to take the Transparency Pledge. This is an important first step in making the industry more transparent and fostering an environment of accountability and protection of human rights of workers.