The reason brands and retailers don’t know who their suppliers are (or what their impact might be) is because they don’t have a vested interest in their supply chain partners — not because supply chains are long and complex.

If I had a dollar for every person that cites long, complex, supply chains as a barrier to sustainability, I’d be a rich woman. Instead, I find myself just weeks away from giving birth, writing think pieces, still waiting for the nesting instinct to kick in. But I digress.

I…

Legal accountability should be about pushing brands to have more skin in the game and ensuring a distribution of financial risk that’s equitable. As long as brands continue to cope with uncertain consumer demand by pushing financial risk onto their suppliers, factory managers are likely to push that risk down to their workers.

The Bangladesh Accord, a legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions set up in the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse, was set to expire at the end of August. …

Critical nuances for effectively advocating change in the fashion industry.

1. “We need more accurate forecasts.”

More accurate forecasts should not be conflated with improved purchasing practices, or with shared financial risk. Brands will never have a crystal ball to see into the future. …

As a garment factory manager, I hated being audited for due diligence. Here’s what I wish social compliance auditors had asked me about instead.

Due diligence is at the heart of the sustainable fashion agenda, and, increasingly, a legal requirement. Theoretically, I’m all for it. In an industry with a history of greeting injustices and scandals with cries of “it was them, not me!” — it’s a particularly welcome antidote. …

Factory costs are driven by deviations from forecast. And it’s the fact that suppliers disproportionately bear the financial risk for these deviations that leads to workers being squeezed.

Explanations for low wages and precarious livelihoods within the fashion supply chain usually go something like this: factory managers must squeeze every last drop of time out of their workers to hit the low costs and price targets the…

The litmus test for knowing whether an intervention fundamentally transforms the incentives is simple: will it systematically guarantee that the losses associated with unsold products are distributed equitably?

As a disillusioned consumer, former garment factory manager, and concerned citizen, I’ve been trying to re-imagine sustainable fashion. What does doing fashion more sustainable really look like?

And the thing I keep come back to is shared risk. The reality is that in an industry where financial risk is not

Oversight won’t change the fact that the fashion industry (as it exists today) needs a workforce capable of cheaply expanding and contracting. Better protecting the rights of workers requires talking about subcontracting as the systemic problem that it is.

Research has shown that people working in subcontracted facilities often fare worse than people working in larger, more visible, garment factories. But our efforts to try and change this have been led astray by a flawed conceptual understanding of what subcontracting is and why it exists.

So what is subcontracting…

If we’re serious about making the fashion industry more just, we must stop relying on a one-size-fits all explanation for why manager-worker relations can become contentious.

As a former garment factory manager, it’s my conviction that stories about management-worker relations desperately need some diversifying. Often, this relationship is talked about in terms of a singular narrative: exploited workers and exploitative management. But this narrative doesn’t help us to understand a multi-dimensional and highly contextual relationship. …

The tone of a recent New York Times report implicating apparel manufacturer TAL Apparel in alleged forced labor is inadvertently misleading. At best, it oversimplifies a complex problem, and at worst, it obscures the path forward for effectively preventing forced labor in fashion supply chains.

Allegations of forced labor in fashion supply chains should always be taken seriously. A recent New York Times report highlights a Transparentem investigation alleging potential forced labor among TAL’s 2,600 migrant workers. TAL is a large manufacturer based in Hong Kong that employs about 26,000 garment workers across 10 factories…

What can we do to dismantle structurally racist approaches to sustainability? If we’ve benefited from race, class, or gender privilege: what are our implicit biases? How have we built these into our sustainable fashion solutions, policies, and institutions?

Recent protests around the world speak to the ways white privilege is deeply ingrained in policy, institutions, and economic systems. …

Kim van der Weerd

Co-host of Manufactured podcast, sustainable fashion advocate, former garment factory manager.

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