These numbers are, of course, averages. They don’t claim to be the exact profit split for every shirt. But they do give a fair impression of how the system is weighted.
Next time you see a t-shirt for less than $10 – think about how much the maker made
Improving conditions for workers must certainly involve internal reforms in Bangladesh, both through more stringent labour and health and safety laws as well as regulation and enforcement. But easing the incessant pressure placed by buyers on suppliers to cut costs is also crucial.
Factory operators told us they wanted buyers to insist on better conditions for workers, and to pay enough to ensure that could happen. They welcomed contracts that stipulating spending money on safer building and higher pay.
Economic pressures increasing
But it is the pressure to cut costs that has intensified with the COVID crisis.
Between March and June 2020, brands cancelled clothing orders worth billions of dollars to Bangladeshi makers. By September more than 357,000 of the nation’s 4 million garment workers had lost their jobs, and many more were forced to accept lower pay. (Total textile exports for 2020 were down nearly 17%, according to the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association.)
In November 2020, Oxfam in partnership with Monash University published a report raising “serious questions about the commitment of brands to ensuring workers in their supply chains are paid living wages and work in decent conditions”.
Based on about 150 surveys and 22 in-depth interviews with industry stakeholders, it rated purchasing practices of Australia’s 10 leading fashion retailers.
Overall rating of Australia’s top 10 fashion retailers’ purchasing decisions, rated from 0 to 4. Oxfam, CC BY-ND
Overall, manufacturers rated H&M Group the best (3 out of 4). Big W, Kmart and Target Australia got 2.5. Best&Less, Cotton On, Inditex and Myer scored 2.
Worst performers were The Just Group (Just Jeans, Jay Jays, Jacqui E, Peter Alexander, Portmans, Dotti) and Mosaic Brands (Millers, Rockmans, Noni B, Rivers, Katies, Autograph, Crossroads and Beme). These two companies, along with Myer, also declined to participate in the research.
To solve the disconnect between profits, accountability and responsibility, retailers and brands must be much more closely involved in knowing and caring about what goes on in the factories they source from.
This article originally appeared on The Conversation