Improving 
working conditions

Creating safe and fair working conditions for garment workers

In a world hungry for fast, affordable fashion, the pressure to cut corners and squeeze costs is higher than ever. This threatens the lives and livelihoods of garment workers.

From Bangladesh to China, Turkey to Brazil, we know that workers aren't getting a fair deal. By helping them fight their own corner – and making the whole industry accountable for improvements – we believe that we can radically change the situation for garment workers across the world. 

See our working conditions theory of change (pdf 40kb).

Dignified and fair jobs provide a foundation for raising not only living standards but also people's aspirations.

Jill Tucker, Head of Supply Chain Innovation & Transformation

The problem

While some brands are making strides to address the complex, entrenched issues that perpetuate substandard working conditions, as an industry we are far from where we should be.

The continuous demand for fashion leads to a severe form of just-in-time production at the lowest cost possible. As factories subcontract work out, supply chains become opaque and that is where exploitation can hide.

A lack of transparency in the apparel supply chain and decades of entrenched behaviour make it hard to drive change. But change is possible. Greater transparency and closer collaboration between buyers, factories and workers can encourage decisions that will improve conditions and create lasting change.

The solution: supply chain transparency

We know that efforts to improve workers' wellbeing are strengthened when working conditions are publicly known and acknowledged. Credible, accessible and transparent information has the power to drive decision-making that leads to positive behaviour change.

Informed workers can choose to work in factories that treat people better. Brands can choose to improve their purchasing practices and enable suppliers to pass the benefits onto workers.

And consumers can choose where to shop, based on the evidence of how a brand operates. By making previously hidden or unknown information publicly available, we can enable and incentivise decision makers, to make the choices that will improve working conditions for garment workers.

View our committment to transparency (pdf 40kb).

Creating responsibility at the buyer level

Amplifying the Voice of Workers

Suppliers have a lot of responsibility for poor working conditions, but governments, brands and retailers have much to answer for too.

On the buying side, late orders, last-minute changes and delayed payments put pressure on suppliers. These things can lead to unfair conditions for workers, who often shoulder the burden through excessive hours, late wages and unfair demands from employers.

That's why we're excited to be working with Better Buying, a fresh-thinking programme that aims to show brands how purchasing practices can help or hinder working conditions. It gives suppliers a platform to highlight best practice, and show how bad decision-making at buyer-level can lead to unfair conditions. By giving suppliers a voice and creating an opportunity for dialogue between buyers and suppliers, we can bring transparency to complex and difficult supply chain relationships.

Helping workers to help themselves is another important strand of our work. They have the greatest motivation to improve conditions, and they are the ones who know best what needs to improve.

If we respect garment workers' voices, we respect women's voices. If we listen, we can all create an industry that works for women's needs through adequate maternity leave, preventing sexual abuse, equal pay and promotion opportunities.

With a garment industry employing millions of workers, it is paramount to enable workers to negotiate for better conditions. Education, transparency and empowerment will ultimately give workers a chance to fight for fairer wages, to know and defend their own rights, and to advocate for interests in the workplace, as well as in their homes and communities.

Stories of impact

The most stimulating challenge of my life

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Drip Pool Programme: Innovative Community-Managed Financing Mechanism 

Gujarat, India

You must educate your children

Wisdom rooted in Customs

Chiapas, Mexico

The story of Vishram a Drip Farmer in Gujarat, India

Gujarat, India

Tackling systemic issues within India: Child Labour

Madhya Pradesh, India.

Life After Forced Labour: The fish farmer

A Daughter's Sacrifice

A Farmer's Organic Mission for Good

Life After Forced Labour: The rose farmers

Meet Aklima

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Returning to their traditions

Life After Forced Labour: Longing to go to school

Thavasimadai, India

Immigrants must follow their dreams

Brazil

When workers know their rights and how to demand them

Piedras Negras, Mexico

Handmade

How does empowerment help change the lives of women working at a maquila?

Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico

Building a new cotton conscience together in China

China

More than organic cotton

Life After Forced Labour: Mrs. Mariyasanthi and the rice cooker

A fair, prosperous, sustainable cotton industry is possible

What should working women do when their health may be at risk on the job?

Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico

Pushpa: One Girl's Journey for a Better Life

Madhya Pradesh, India

A fair, prosperous, sustainable cotton industry is possible

A Farmer's Organic Mission for Good

Returning to their traditions

More than organic cotton

The story of Vishram a Drip Farmer in Gujarat, India

Gujarat, India

Drip Pool Programme: Innovative Community-Managed Financing Mechanism 

Gujarat, India

Building a new cotton conscience together in China

China

Wisdom rooted in Customs

Chiapas, Mexico

You must educate your children

The most stimulating challenge of my life

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Immigrants must follow their dreams

Brazil

When workers know their rights and how to demand them

Piedras Negras, Mexico

How does empowerment help change the lives of women working at a maquila?

Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico

What should working women do when their health may be at risk on the job?

Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico

Life After Forced Labour: The fish farmer

Life After Forced Labour: Mrs. Mariyasanthi and the rice cooker

Life After Forced Labour: Longing to go to school

Thavasimadai, India

Life After Forced Labour: The rose farmers

Pushpa: One Girl's Journey for a Better Life

Madhya Pradesh, India

Tackling systemic issues within India: Child Labour

Madhya Pradesh, India.

A Daughter's Sacrifice

Meet Aklima

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Handmade

Partners