The horrendously low prices that farmers get for their produce is a symptom of a society with warped priorities; we do not want to pay adequately to someone who keeps us alive, but we are willing to pay through our noses for branded shoes and gadgets. And in relation to the latter, we don’t even care what the actual factory worker gets. – Scroll.in
The same goes for some of the clothes we buy. We don’t pay through our noses for all the clothes we buy. We buy them because they are the cheapest we could find.
#whomademyclothes marks the 3rd anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster when 1,134 people were killed in a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh. We dress to impress, but we forget the suppressed. Until this incident happened, not many knew where those cheap clothes come from, who makes them and how they are made.
The clothing industry is wrapped with social, environmental and economic problems. India is world’s second largest textile exporter and the third largest exporter to the US but at what cost? Challenges currently faced by the textile industry with respect to its environmental footprint include water issues, pollution caused due to dyes, and microplastics. India is battling water crisis. Water mining is rampant in the country and hence we are losing precious water resources that are not renewable in nature. Textile industry is water intensive and needs to adapt to these changing conditions.
People who manufacture clothes are victimized by human trafficking. India Textile Industry being the second largest employer after the Agriculture Industry, unfair labor practices and human trafficking are pervasive in the country. For example, Sumangali is one such form of child labor forbidden but practiced in Tamil Nadu.
The Gujarat Pollution Control Board (GPCB) had once issued closure notices to 18 industrial units in Surat for water pollution and there are over 500 units polluting Pali, Rajasthan. The Indian Textile Industry was off the sustainability wagon here. Waterless dyeing process, using solar power to run textile companies, green textile based on organic and natural colours and hand embroider, are some of the things India can do to tackle this mess. Labeling products also can help raise consumer awareness and help consumers choose greener and fairtrade products.
In a recent report by UNEP, Global Waste Management Outlook, that I was involved in, it was found that textile forms 1 to 3% of municipal solid waste. The second-hand clothing industry has doubled from 1.26 billion USD in 2001 to 2.5 billion USD in 2009. Canada, Germany, Republic of Korea, UK and U.S. account for more than half of all exports of this. Fifteen countries account for half of all imports: Angola, Benin, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Germany, Ghana, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Poland, Russia, Tunisia and Ukraine . The importing countries again export the sorted fractions depending on the quality.
On a global scale, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s vision is an apparel, footwear, and home textiles industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities. The Fashion Transparency Index looks at five key areas when ranking brands:
1. Policy & Commitment
What are the standards and goals the company sets itself for the protection of workers’ rights and the environment? And do they make these public?
2. Tracking & Traceability
How well does the company know its supply chain and what does it make public?
3. Audits & Remediation
How does the company go about checking its supply chain for compliance with its policies and standards? And what is its approach to dealing with suppliers who fall below these standards? Do they make these public?
4. Engagement & Collaboration
Which organisations and stakeholders does the company work with to ensure its suppliers and their employees are treated well? And do they make these public?
What checks and balances does the company have in place within its own organisation, to ensure its initiatives take place as planned? And do they make this public?