At the Sustainability Conclave ’22: Living wage is also key to sustainability

Decent pay and decent work are also key to sustainability and climate change because they actually slow down fast fashion by delivering better quality and less volume, a speaker at the two-day Sustainability Conclave 2022 said. , hosted virtually by Fibre2Fashion. The living wage is recognized by the United Nations and the ILO as a human right.

The structure of clothing supply chains is such that there are asymmetrical power relations between brands and suppliers, said Anannya Bhattacharjee, International Coordinator, Asia Floor Wage Alliance, an Asia-led global labor and social alliance. “We need transformative change in global supply chains.”

Decent pay and decent work are also key to sustainability and climate change because they actually slow down fast fashion by delivering better quality and less volume, a speaker at the two-day Sustainability Conclave 2022 said. , hosted virtually by Fibre2Fashion. The living wage is recognized by the United Nations and the ILO as a human right.

Brands must guarantee living wage to workers, because living wage is a strategy to fight for a more sustainable factory and sustainable supply chains, Bhattacharjee said during a session on “low wages for workers in fashion : is there a way out?

“If you pay living wages, it makes your supply chain sustainable not only from a human rights perspective but also from an environmental perspective,” she added.

According to Bhattacharjee, Living Wage is something that “actually slows down fast fashion, it gives us better quality and less volume.” Mentioning that around 30% of the clothes produced today are thrown away, which harms our planet, she said that “we need to reimagine economic growth around human beings rather than things. This is the fundamental change we need.

Speaking in the same sense, Dominique Muller, Policy Director, Labor Behind the Label (LBL)a small but highly influential UK-based organization campaigning for workers’ rights in the garment industry, said: “Now is the time for change – to tackle the systemic causes of poverty wages in the clothing and footwear industry, and to force brands to take responsibility.

Stating that there are around 60 million workers who supply the global garment industry, she said that the legal minimum wage in garment-producing countries is below a living wage and that the wage gap minimum and the living wage is widening.

“If brands pay too little for production, it forces factories to make tough choices, often resulting in workers’ wages being cut to cover other expenses first,” Muller said. She said transparency is key to changing the industry and knowing what conditions workers are working under.

She pointed out that while production can be outsourced, the responsibility to respect human rights and pay a living wage rests with the brand. According to her, pricing and purchasing are crucial. “From a sustainability point of view, we are in a situation where we are overproducing and overconsuming. While buyers are charged with getting the lowest possible price, suppliers estimate the lowest possible cost of production based on minimum wage rather than living wage, and ten-hour days, including two overtime hours , rather than eight-hour workdays. Brands must therefore take responsibility for changing their purchasing practices.

“Brands must commit to paying a living wage contribution on every order they place, sufficient to close the wage gap for all workers in their supply chain,” Muller said who called that “ it’s time to use the available data to highlight trending human rights abuses and drive real, meaningful and measurable wage increases across the supply chain.

Gonzalo Xavier Estupinan, Regional Wage Specialist in the Decent Work Team (DWT) for Asia and the Pacific at the ILO, was the next to speak during the session. He said the compensation and benefits paid to workers in the garment industry are important. Citing the efficiency wage theory, he said that paying a higher wage than the market rate increases hiring efficiency, workplace productivity and minimizes employee turnover. It also increases employee motivation, boosts employee loyalty, increases productivity and promotes equity within the workforce.

Among the lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic is that wage policies must guarantee basic social security benefits to cope with the vagaries of work and life. He said pushing for adequate wages in a sustainable business environment should address minimum wage systems and improve the degree of compliance such as labor inspections, information or awareness campaigns, complaint channels and sanctions. effectively implemented.

There is also a need to shift from the informal to the formal economy and increase productivity, especially among SMEs, he added.

Towards paying a fair wage to garment workers, Estupinan said the ILO has developed a methodological framework to assess the needs of workers and their families beyond the poverty line and towards better living conditions. decent. The framework was developed using income and expenditure surveys from national statistical offices. “This needs-based methodology can benefit brands, buyers, suppliers, contractors, labor organizations and regulators. While it may not always be possible to adjust wages to such benchmarks, attention can converge on a progressive goal of the global supply chain based on labor productivity and industry recovery.

The ILO methodology has already been developed and tested in five pilot countries viz. Costa Rica, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

Concluding the session, Estupinan said it was essential to weigh the cost of living against the needs of workers and their families.

Click here to attend the Sustainability Conclave 2022.

Fibre2Fashion Information Desk (RKS)

Michael A. Bynum