OXFAM WANTS MAJOR FASHION retailers and brands in Australia – such as Just Jeans, Lorna Jane, Myer and Peter Alexander – to be open about how and where they manufacture their clothes, to help lift the women who make them out of poverty.
Oxfam made the call ahead of the Black Friday and Christmas sales period, with the international development and human rights organisation released its updated Naughty or Nice list. The list is a crucial one for responsible fashion brands and retailers to be on the right side of in making commitments around living wages and avoiding being 'called out' to do better.
Oxfam Australia chief executive Lyn Morgain said it was particularly unfortunate that some brands had failed to make commitments to ensure the payment of a living wage during the pandemic, "a time when the industry has grown yet many garment workers have lost their jobs".
A living wage means enough money is earned to cover basic essentials for a family including food, housing, healthcare, clothing, transport, education and some money for unexpected events.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant, which is why transparency around issues of power, whether business or politics, is so important,” Ms Morgain said.
“Three major clothing companies in Australia – Lorna Jane, Myer and The Just Group – have failed to take the basic step of publishing key information about where they manufacture their clothes.
“It’s particularly disappointing to see brands that promote the wellbeing of women, such as Lorna Jane, failing to be transparent about the factories in which their clothes are made. This supports a culture of secrecy that is harmful to the wellbeing of all women, including those who make our clothes, and entrenches the massive power disparity between brands and garment workers.”
While those three companies have found themselves on the Naughty list, others have taken positive steps towards backing up their commitment to a living wage. Those on the Nice list this year are Best & Less, Big W, Bonds, City Chic, Cotton On, Country Road, Dangerfield, David Jones, Forever New, Gorman, H&M, Kmart, Mosaic brands including Rivers and Katies, and Target.
Oxfam’s recent report, Shopping for a Bargain, revealed that poor business practices – including aggressive price negotiation, inaccurate forecasting of orders, short lead times and last-minute changes to order – are having a profound impact on the lives of workers.
“To help combat this, last year we asked brands to commit to separating out labour costs to ensure there was clarity between factories and brands about the expectations of payment to garment workers. It’s been so heartening to see so many brands step up to the plate,” Ms Morgain said.
Meanwhile, other brands – such as Jeans West and Zara – have made some progress, but still have work to do to catch up to the Nice brands on their living wage journey.
“What is at the heart of this issue is the garment workers – mainly women in low-income countries – who make our clothes. These women aren’t paid enough to build a better future for their children, because their low wages keep them in poverty.
“It’s time for Australian brands to acknowledge and use the power they have to ensure these women are empowered to lift themselves out of poverty through the payment of a living wage.
“This Christmas, we want shoppers to demand better from the brands they love so that our celebrations don’t come at the expense of the women who make our clothes and their families.”
Oxfam's 2021 Naughty or Nice list is here.