Impact of the lockdown on the fashion industry

Manufacturing countries

The Corona crisis may provide an opportunity for more sustainable development in the future. In yesterday's article, we showed the problems that the Corona crisis has highlighted for the fast fashion industry. However, one cannot ignore the situation in the producing countries. Many companies have passed the pressure on to the supply chains, canceling orders and even not paying for goods that have already been completed.

This once again highlights the dependence of producers on buyers. The buyers argue that if the sellers were to become insolvent, they would not order goods from the producers again, which would be a bigger problem for the producers. However, this argument is not credible for large international companies that receive short-time working benefits, etc. for their own employees. But it shows that many companies do not take responsibility for their supply chains. And if companies that follow the fast fashion concept would become insolvent, this would offer the chance for companies that follow more sustainable concepts.

After China, Bangladesh is the country with the most clothing exports. With about 4000 factories and 4 million employees, the small country is dependent on the textile industry. Many companies in Bangladesh were unable to continue paying wages during the lockdown due to non-payment by their clients. The lack of payments also led to many factory closures, depriving millions of people of their livelihoods in the midst of a pandemic. In the meantime, some factories have started producing protective clothing, but the situation has not returned to pre-pandemic conditions even after a year of pandemic.  According to estimates by the International Labor Organization (ILO), on average only three out of five workers have been reinstated after the factories opened. The consequences for those who have lost their jobs are enormous: people who used to work 12 hours a day for 6 days a week and feed an entire family with the €100 a week they earned have now been without income and reserves for a year. Among other things, this has led to their children being sent to work instead of going to school.

Producing goods for fast fashion companies and then destroying them in Germany is not sustainable. Canceling orders at the expense of the producers can't be either. Should society continue to support these companies with purchases so that more workers don't lose their jobs at the end of the supply chain?

In the short term, poorly paid work under undignified conditions is better than no livelihood. In the long term, trade needs to be sustainable and fair. A supply chain law (see our article from Wednesday) could be a contribution to this. In the long term, however, a change in thinking is also necessary. Buying less, but more sustainable and fairly produced clothing can be a contribution. Here, both companies and consumers should take responsibility.

C SIRO (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported)