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Global apparel brands asked to sign declaration on supply chain transparency

by George Rajasekaran
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As workers from various parts of the country and the State have begun to return to textile units in Tamil Nadu after months of a serious financial crisis, Tamil Nadu Alliance, representing over 100 grassroots organisations in southern India, has called upon multinational apparel brands and retailers to take action to eradicate“severe labour exploitation in Tamil Nadu” by signing the Tamilnadu Declaration-Frame Work for Action.

Yarn and fabric produced in Tamil Nadu are exported globally and can be found in the supply chains of international brands and retailers.

An exclusive website, https://tamilnadudeclaration.org, has been created recently where the declaration and the framework for action are defined and explained.

Why the declaration

Tamil Nadu is a major textile manufacturing hub. Yarn and fabric produced in Tamil Nadu are exported globally and can be found in the supply chains of international brands and retailers.
The textile manufacturing industry is a vital source of employment in Tamil Nadu. Tirupur People’s Forum, an organisation involved in labour rights and environment, estimates that 2,80,000 women workers are employed in about 4000 textile units where labour rights violations are known to occur within some parts of the textile supply chain. A majority of textile and garment making units are located in western districts of Tamil Nadu.

Adolescent girls and young women working within textile mills are at risk of exploitative practices that amount to forced labour. These practices include excessive and involuntary overtime, extremely low wages, physical and sexual violence, restriction of movement and denial of freedom of association. Eight hours of daily work with overtime of 2 to 4 hours is the norm, according to information provided by Tirupur People’s Forum

COVID – 19 brought into sharp focus the questionable working conditions in textile units, notes the Tamil Nadu Declaration.

International brands and retailers sourcing textiles from Tamil Nadu have a responsibility to address severe rights violations within their supply chain. This requires collaborative action between business and civil society to improve conditions within the industry, the declaration points out.

Stress on transparency

Being more like webs than linear chains, with layers of agents, contractors and subcontractors the supply chains are long, complex, fragmented and opaque, allowing exploitative and unsafe working conditions to thrive while obscuring who has the responsibility and power to redress them.

Fashion Revolution, among many other organisations, has been calling for greater transparency and accountability across the global fashion industry since the Rana Plaza building collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013 killing more than a thousand garment workers over the past seven years, and particularly in the past three years, in large part due to the influence of initiatives like the Transparency Pledge and #WhoMadeMyClothes campaign ( Fashion Revolution, Fashion Transparency Index 2020, 21 April 2020, https://www.fashionrevolution.org/transparency).

In support of the Tamil Nadu Alliance, Fashion Revolution has reviewed efforts of 62 major brands and retailers with reported links to textile suppliers in Tamil Nadu. This baseline research shows that apparel brands and retailers have publicly disclosed the facilities that manufacture their products. However, there is a notable lack of transparency beyond the first tier of manufacturing where millions of people around the world are working to produce and process the fibres and fabrics we wear. Fashion Revolution has partnered with the Tamil Nadu Alliance to call upon more than 60 major apparel brands and retailers to increase transparency beyond the first tier by disclosing the processing facilities and textile mills in their supply chains.

The survey reveals that 42/62 major brands and retailers are disclosing first-tier manufacturers in Tamil Nadu where finished goods are manufactured and shipped; 23/62 are disclosing a partial list of processing facilities (printing, dyeing, laundering, embroidery); 18/62 are disclosing at least a partial list of textile production sites (spinning, knitting, weaving and fabric production). The full list of brands and retailers reviewed with respect to Tamilnadu can be found at https://www.somo.nl/time-for-transparency/, Nudie Jeans: https://www.nudiejeans.com/sustainability/transparency 46/62 1/62 23/62.

Traceability and transparency are key for brands’ responsibility to address deeper supply chain issues.

(To be concluded)


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