Living wages aren’t happening broadly in fashion.
On average, garment workers face a 45 percent wage gap, meaning the further away from zero, the larger the gap between decent living and minimum wage. This is the case for more than half a dozen countries, including Pakistan, India and Vietnam, according to a new report from The Industry We Want, a recently launched multi-stakeholder coalition and industry dashboard meant to bring light to wage gaps and purchasing practices in fashion and footwear.
The dashboard features relevant and timely data on the living wage gap, purchasing practices and GHG emissions over the past year.
For the report, researchers gathered data on wage gaps and purchasing practices from responses of more than 500 suppliers in the garment and footwear industry in the Better Buying Institute’s Partnership Index. Additional estimates include figures from the Global Living Wage Foundation, Wage Indicator Foundation, the Asia Floor Wage Alliance and the Clean Clothes Campaign, among others. Of those responses, 57 percent of behaviors were considered those of a “true partner,” or one doing the most to advance fair business, 28 percent were of a “collaborator” or closely aligned partner and 17 percent of behaviors were of a “detractor,” or those mitigating progress.
Better Buying Institute’s Partnership Index, referenced by TIWW in its dashboard, gave buyers an annual score of just 39 out of a maximum of 100.
“The Industry We Want has been established to measure, track and accelerate progress but also to act as a convener so we’re here to support the work that we think is going to make an impact on these indicators,” said Olivia Windham Stewart, a business and human rights consultant who contributed to the dashboard. “So for each of these focus areas, we are working with all of the stakeholders who are relevant and expert in that area to define the strategies and work out how we need to move forward.”
“Some would argue it would require buyers to commit to the key principles of purchasing practices, so they commit to fair payment terms and various other things. Better Buying [Institute] has the Five Principles [Visibility, Stability, Time, Financials and Shared Responsibility]. That would be the soft-branded approach,” said Windham Stewart. “I would argue for either commitments to much stronger contract terms but really I’d get behind policy change. So there are two pieces of regulation, one in the E.U. and one in the U.K., that I think are very important. One is the Unfair Trading Practices directive in the E.U. It currently only exists in food and agriculture but the Fair Trade Advocacy Office is looking to extend it to garments. That limits payment terms to 30 days to perishable goods and 60 days for non-perishable goods. And the other is the Garment Trade Adjudicator,” which is a relatively new push.
Last year, the garment sector was responsible for 1.025 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent or about 2 percent of annual global GHG emissions, according to estimates by the World Resources Institute and the Apparel Impact Institute (Aii) in the “Roadmap to Net Zero: Delivering Science-Based Targets in the Apparel Sector” report.
TIWW debuted the dashboard alongside the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development forum on due diligence in a webinar titled, “Launching Drivers for Change.”
Striving to release “regular, updated data sets to hold the industry accountable to the targets set and for impacts created,” TIWW announced its commitment to partner with Aii to update GHG data on an annual basis until 2025.