Ethical clothing

How can you know who really made your clothes? Unravelling the answers isn't easy.
 
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06.Clothing brands in the spotlight

What to look for in a brand

  • Does the company have an ethical sourcing code? Is it public? 
  • Does the code cover important International Labour Organization conventions: living wage, no forced or child labour, freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, safe and hygienic working conditions, working hours are not excessive, no discrimination, regular employment is provided and no harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed.
  • Does it audit its factories? How often? Are the audits independent, unannounced and are results made public? 
  • Is it part of a multi-stakeholder ethical scheme? 
  • Is it aware of its fibre and textiles supply chain? 
  • Are its factory locations public? 

What they said

CHOICE contacted Australia’s four biggest clothing retailers as well as four discount retailers to ask about their sourcing practices. Big W, Best and Less, Kmart and the Just Group would not comment. 


Country Road ethical clothing
Country Road, Trenery, Witchery, Mimco 
Made in: China, India, Vietnam, Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey. 
Ethical sourcing code? Yes (not public). 
Wage commitment: Living wage.
Supply chain traceability: Knows all its primary suppliers, which must ensure subcontractors comply with the code of conduct. Says it’s difficult to trace fibre and textile production as it’s traded on an open market. 
Publishes factory details? No. 
Audits: Regular announced social compliance audits are conducted by an accredited third-party auditing company.  

Specialty Fashion Group ethical clothing
Millers, Katies, Autograph, City Chic, Crossroads and Rivers as of November 2013 
Made in: China, Bangladesh and India. 
Ethical sourcing code? Nothing publicly available. 
Wage commitment: Minimum wage.
Supply chain traceability: All cut, make and trim (including subcontractors) factories are known. Fibre sourcing and textile production is managed by the factory. 
Publishes factory details? No, but has signed the Accord.
Audits: Conducts announced audits. Plans to start unannounced audits this year. 

Sussan Group ethical clothing
Sportsgirl, Suzanne Grae, Sussan 
Made in: China and Vietnam. 
Ethical sourcing code? Yes (not public). 
Wage commitment: Minimum wage. Says all audited factories pay above the minimum. 
Supply chain traceability: Doesn’t know factories of its wholesalers. Textiles are sourced through mills suggested by agents. 
Publishes factory details? No. 
Audits: Yearly announced audits of all factories are conducted by an independent auditing company. Audit information is not made public.  

The Just Group ethical clothing
Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Jacqui E, Peter Alexander, Portmans and Dotti 
Made in: Bangladesh. Would not comment on other source countries. 
Ethical sourcing code? Nothing publicly available.
Wage commitment: None. 
Supply chain traceability: No comment made. 
Publishes factory details? No. Has not signed the Accord.
Audits: Prior to doing business in a factory, an independent auditor checks the factory complies with local laws and Just Group principles.  

Target ethical clothing
Target's home brands: Essentials, Modernista, Hot Options, MODA, Bellecurve, Adamsville, MAXX 
Made in: Bangladesh. Would not specify any other countries where it manufactures. 
Ethical sourcing code? Yes. 
Wage commitment: Minimum wage.
Supply chain traceability: No comment made. 
Publishes factory details? Has committed to publish and has signed the Accord.
Audits: Conducts independent regular scheduled and unannounced factory audits throughout the year.

Kmart ethical clothing
Kmart’s home brand 
Made in: Bangladesh. Would not comment on where else it sources clothes.
Ethical sourcing code? Yes.
Wage commitment: Minimum wage.
Supply chain traceability: No comment made.
Publishes factory details? Has published Bangladeshi factories and has committed to publish all its factories. Has signed the Accord.
Audits: Mainly conducts announced audit every six, 12 or 24 months.

Big W ethical clothing
Big W's homebrands: Blacksmith, Match it, Pink Sugar, Tweed River, Dymples, Joe and Co, Wave Zone 
Made in: Bangladesh. Would not comment on where it manufactures.
Ethical sourcing code? Yes.
Wage commitment: Living wage.
Supply chain traceability: No comment made. 
Publishes factory details? No, but has signed the Accord.
Audits: No comment made.  

Best and Less ethical clothes
Best & Less' home brand: Edited 
Made in: Bangladesh. Would not comment on where it manufactures. 
Ethical sourcing code? Yes.
Wage commitment: Living wage.
Supply chain traceability: No comment made. 
Publishes factory details? No. Has not signed the Accord.
Audits: No comment made.

What about Myer & David Jones? 

As well as stocking other brands, Myer and David Jones have their own. In Baptist World Aid’s Australian Fashion Report, which ranks companies on ethical sourcing policies, transparency and traceability, monitoring and training, and worker rights, neither scored favourably. In this A-F rating system, Myer scored a D+ and DJs an F. 

Living wage vs minimum wage

Many ethical sourcing policies have provisions for the legal minimum wage, however this is often not enough to meet the costs of basic living. A living wage is considered to meet basic costs such as such as food, water, shelter, clothing, energy and transport.  

The Accord

Companies signatory to the Bangladesh Accord must supply their factory locations so independent inspectors can audit them. They must also provide funds for safety improvements.  

 

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