The fashion industry doesn’t need more suppliers – it just needs better ones
The recent exposure of conditions in Leicester fashion factories highlights how essential it is for supply chains to be fully transparent.
As the UK takes tentative steps to come out of coronavirus lockdown; one city, Leicester has been put back under stricter restrictions. The cities’ fast fashion factories have been cited as one potential driver of higher COVID 19 rates compared to the rest of the country, with allegations against manufacturing bosses of not taking social distancing, COVID-secure work conditions and worker safety seriously. Both consumers and industry professionals have reacted with shock and concern over images of the working conditions inside these close-to-home Leicester factories, leading to widespread condemnation and calls for greater transparency across the entire fashion supply chain.
Boohoo highlights the need for transparency in supply chains
The brand Boohoo epitomises the fast fashion industry, delivering quick, throwaway fashion fixes to customers. Indeed, while other businesses struggled during the COVID 19 lockdown, Boohoo simply shifted their lines and marketing focus to loungewear and social media ready cheap fashion hits that were perfect for lockdown. But the recent news of a murky underworld of poorly treated workers and crammed fashion factories operating with worrying disregard for health and safety in the UK has hit hard. As well as these packed conditions contributing to the spread of coronavirus within communities, reports include expectations of employees to work without masks and being paid only £3.50 an hour. Further investigations expose a potential link between Boohoo’s founder Jalal Kamani and the factories concerned, highlighting the importance of genuine transparency.
Although Boohoo has reacted by promising a swift investigation into these claims, the effects have been dramatic. The news wiped £500 million off Boohoo shares and retailers such as ASOS and Next pulled the brand from their stores. It’s clear that these practises can’t be allowed to continue – but what’s the answer?
What does this mean for the textile supply chain?
While there are many calls for better procedures within the supply chain, the potential is that this fails to translate into direct action. But suppliers and brands across the entire global supply chain need to be better. This includes:
- Commitment to sustainability
- Becoming genuinely more transparent
- Taking safety concerns seriously with proactive procedures (especially in a post-COVID world)
- Ensuring workers are paid fairly.
One of the key impacts of the Leicester story is that this is affecting workers in the UK, rather than manufacturing hubs abroad; highlighting how every single part of the global supply chain must focus on compliance. But with an interconnected network of suppliers and component parts across the globe, achieving this compliance is a complex problem.
Supply chain compliance tools are essential
Compliance is essential for supply chain transparency. Image: Bomler
Compliance tools such as from Bomler give brands tools to make this easier; allowing clear visualisation of the supply chain while allowing suppliers to input key details relating to essential social responsibility and other vital commitments. This visualisation is needed for transparency; ensuring that action can be taken swiftly if improvements are needed.
As well as commitment from suppliers to take action to be more responsible, fashion brands also need to step up when it comes to their dedication to transparency and compliance throughout the entire chain. As well as their brand reputation and future sales, the COVID 19 spread in Leicester has highlighted the importance of brands and manufacturers taking workers’ health and safety seriously – a key compliance measure.
To wrap up
The realisation that workers in Leicester were vulnerable due to poor working conditions and disregard for safety has shocked many consumers and retailers. Unfortunately, this is a common story across the globe within the supply chain. But suppliers and fashion brands can ensure they act in better, fairer ways by committing to active compliance throughout the chain with tools such as the compliance portal from Bomler. It’s not only important – it’s essential, driving fashion to be better, more sustainable and more transparent for the future.