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Clothing news Jan/Feb 2020

We report on the Clean Clothes Campaign's criticism of the current auditing system in the garment industry as well as the latest on the fur industry.

Fig Leaf for Fashion: How auditing protects brands and fails workers

Clean Clothes Campaign has released a damning report into the failures of the current corporate-controlled auditing system in the garment industry.

The report points to cases such as the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,000 people and the Ali Enterprises fire in Pakistan, which killed more than 250. In both instances, the sites had been declared as safe by auditors only months before the avoidable disasters.

It turns out that, in the case of Ali Enterprises, auditors did this without ever visiting the site. And yet there have been little to no repercussions for the auditing companies who operate with impunity within the multi-million-dollar auditing industry.

The report’s criticisms do not apply to state-backed multi-stakeholder initiatives such as the Bangladesh Accord, which are somewhat different. It argues that it is crucial for fashion companies to change their purchasing practices:

“Companies must stop purchasing garments at the lowest possible price and instead instil cost-sharing mechanisms to ensure the adequate remediation of labour rights violations. Unethical purchasing practices keep workers trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, making them more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse and perpetuating the labour rights violations that costly audit programmes unsuccessfully aim to expose and remediate.”

Clean Clothes Campaign also points out that the ineffective corporate-controlled auditing system provides an ethical facade for companies to hide behind:

“While ineffective as tools to actually detect, report and remediate worker violations in apparel supply chains, corporate-controlled social audits have been highly effective in creating the illusion that corporations were taking care of labour rights, whereas governments were not.”

The government’s willingness to allow corporations to take the initiative has only served to exacerbate the problem.

The report ends in a call for systemic change alongside the following key recommendations:

  • State legislation, preferably on the supranational level, requiring mandatory due diligence by companies.
  • A central role for workers and their representatives.
  • Gender-sensitive auditing designed to pick up on gender-specific issues.
  • An end to irresponsible purchasing practices, including the introduction of minimum prices.

House of Windsor goes fur free whilst House of Fraser does fur u-turn

The Queen has ditched real fur in favour of fake fur. Angela Kelly, the Queen’s personal advisor and senior dresser, said, “If Her Majesty is due to attend an engagement in particularly cold weather, from 2019 onwards fake fur will be used to make sure she stays warm.”

Claire Bass, Executive Director of Humane Society International/UK (HSI) says “The UK banned fur farming almost two decades ago because it was deemed too cruel, now we must finish the job and ban fur sales too. We are calling on the British government to follow Her Majesty’s example and make the UK the first country in the world to ban the sale of animal fur.”

“This new policy is a sign of the times,” said a spokesperson for the animal welfare group Peta. However, she added: “It’s a disgrace that soldiers in the Queen’s Guard are still parading around with the fur of bears gunned down in Canada on their caps.”

PETA is urging the Queen to replace the fur with a “humane, luxurious faux bearskin” it says it has developed with the designer Stella McCartney.

Fur in the shops

Meanwhile, after being taken over by Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct in October, the House of Fraser abandoned its decade-long fur-free policy and started selling real fur again in its stores. But after just ten days of public and NGO condemnation and disgust led by HSI, House of Fraser did another fur u-turn and said that it was removing all of the fur.

Claire Bass said: “Shoppers [were] shocked and appalled to see this respected high street store turned into a House of Horrors, selling fur from factory-farmed rabbits, foxes and raccoon dogs as well as coyotes trapped and shot in the wild. British shoppers have sent the message loud and clear that fur is bad for business, and has no place on the British high street.”

image: raccoon dog farmed for its fur in finland
An investigation at a Finnish Fur Farm found raccoon dogs, fox and mink being farmed for their fur.

An increasing number of fashion designers and retailers are dropping fur cruelty. In the last two years alone Prada, Gucci, Versace, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, DKNY, Burberry, Chanel and other high-profile brands have announced fur-free policies.

Since the fur farming ban in 2000, we have imported more than £820 million worth of fur from overseas, including from Finland and China.

Finland is by far the biggest ‘producer’ of fox and raccoon dog fur in Europe, rearing and electrocuting around 2.5 million foxes every year for the global fur trade; only China farms more foxes globally. Fur imports from dogs, cats and commercial seal hunts are banned across the EU, and HSI wants those existing bans extended to protect all fur-bearing species.

HSI’s petition calling for the UK government to ban UK fur sales can be signed here.

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