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Aid agencies to grade fashion industry’s response during COVID-19 crisis

Seamstress or worker in Asian textile factory sewing with industrial sewing machine

A report on how well the fashion industry responded during the coronavirus outbreak will be released in October, prepared by Tearfund NZ and Baptist World Aid Australia.

The special edition of the annual Ethical Fashion Report will look into the response of the fashion industry, focusing on companies with annual revenues of $30 million and above, to the vulnerabilities faced by workers during the coronavirus crisis.

Each year, Tearfund grades about 400 brands from A-F as a way to hold companies accountable on the systems and strategies they have in place to protect their workers from exploitation and the environment from degradation. The “annual report card” will be compiled into an ethical fashion guide for New Zealanders.

This year, the guide has been postponed and Tearfund and Baptist World Aid Australia will instead release the special edition to encourage brands to deliver on their promises to their workers.

“While we acknowledge that fashion companies have been hit by COVID-19 and their supply chains have faltered, it is garment workers in particular who will pay the steepest price,” said Tearfund NZ CEO Ian McInnes.

“We believe companies must do everything in their power to honour contracts and safeguard workers,” McInnes said. “Similarly, consumers who benefit from the remarkable range of clothing lines in good times should let their favourite brands know they’re interested in how their workers are treated in challenging times as well.”

Tearfund NZ said they are concerned about the potential of the COVID-19 crisis to slow or reverse years of progress in improving the wages, rights and conditions of workers making clothes around the world.

Tearfund NZ and Baptist World Aid Australia are asking the public to join them in encouraging their favourite brands to make and deliver on their promises to their workers. 

The two aid and development organisations are also urging fashion companies to commit to standing with the workers in their global supply chains in launching six COVID-19 Fashion Commitments designed to provide vulnerable workers with immediate support and protection during the Coronavirus pandemic.

These include: supporting workers’ wages by honouring supplier commitments; identifying and supporting the workers at greatest risk; listening to the voices and experience of workers; ensuring workers’ rights and safety are respected; collaborating with others to protect vulnerable workers; and building back better for workers and the world.

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