Category Archives: Learn


Agreement for a new Bangladesh Accord in 2018

June 06, 2017

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Learn

Accord-logo-big

The Human Thread is delighted that the first 13 global companies (with many more pending and expected) and two global unions have agreed on a 2nd Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. The new agreement will enter into effect when the current Accord expires in May 2018. The Accord is an unprecedented, legally binding agreement between companies and trade unions to make factories in Bangladesh safe. While much remains to be done, the original Accord has been an important vehicle for improving workplace safety.

The original Accord was signed in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza disaster and would last five years.

In addition to the brands and the two unions, the agreement also has four non-governmental labor rights organizations as “witness signatories.” Sarah Newell, Campaigns Associate at the International Labor Rights Forum, one of the witness signatory organizations, said:

The renewal of the Accord is based on clear evidence that this model, where companies take active responsibility for the safety and rights of workers in their supply chains, works. As we saw with the first Accord, it will take consumer pressure for brands and retailers to commit to making these changes. If as much progress is to be made in the next four years as in the past four, it’ll take conscientious consumers supporting workers by urging brands who source clothing from Bangladesh to sign onto the new Accord and follow through on their commitments.

Here at The Human Thread, we agree Ms. Newell, and we want to underscore the importance of “conscientious consumers” in advancing worker safety, rights, and wages.

For more information, Reuters covered the new Accord here. A press release from the Accord is here.  The full text of the agreement is available here. ILRF’s statement on the renewal is found here. The four witness signatories’ statement is found here. The statement from ICCR is available here.

Pope Francis tweets about our connection to one another

June 06, 2017

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Learn

Screenshot 2017-06-15 at 11.13.28 AM

We strongly agree. Globalized indifference blinds us to The Human Thread that weaves us together. #WhoMadeMyClothes

Equal Pay Day 2017

April 04, 2017

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Learn

Image credits: Brendan McDermid

Image credits: Brendan McDermid

In the U.S., Equal Pay Day falls on April 4 this year. Today marks the day that the average woman in the U.S. earned as much as an average man did in 2016 alone. Put another way, women currently earn 80 cents for each dollar that men earn.

This situation is not unique to the U.S. In fact, studies, from sources like the World Bank, suggest that, as women contribute more apparel-specific labor input than men and that the apparel sector is a female-labor intensive sector, the leading place to make an impact on the global gender wage gap is through improving wages in the garment industry. We think that the remedy is a living wage for garment workers.

Given the violence directed at labor leaders in the garment industry, like Aminul Islam,  we know that people who make our clothes include women every bit as brave as the “fearless girl” pictured above, women like Kalpona Akter and Shima Akter, profiled in “The True Cost,” are women with whom we seek to stand in solidarity. The garment industry is stuck in low wages for workers, and it will only get unstuck when we act. The bravery required for us is but a fraction of the bravery of women and men working for better, dignified wages. What will we do so that they are not standing alone?

 

World Water Day

World Water Day 2017

March 03, 2017

Author: Christopher Cox

Category: Learn

World Water Day, on 22 March every year, is about taking action to tackle the water crisis. Fresh water, the most important resource for humankind, cross-cuts all social, economic and environmental activities. It is a condition for all life on our planet, an enabling or limiting factor for any social and technological development, a possible source of welfare or misery, cooperation or conflict. World Water Day is celebrating water as well as highlighting water related challenges. Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water. Please take time to learn more and take action.  On Sunday, I learned about a notable effort based here in Milwaukee that is also worth examining: Global Partners: Running Waters.

The Human Right to Water, formally recognized by the United Nations in 2010, clarifies that it is the responsibility of companies to ensure their operations do not infringe upon the right of individuals to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water. This right is further buttressed by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6, which calls for global water quality to be improved by reducing pollution and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals.

Given its scale, the garment industry has a massive impact on global water quality. Our clothing requires enormous amounts of water. A simple t-shirt needs 700 gallons of water to make, and a pair of jeans require 1,000 gallons. Our leather products– those comfortable shoes next to your bed, that favorite purse or coat– have polluted India’s rivers with emissions of chromium and animal feces. Today, I am wearing a shirt manufactured in Indonesia, a land wear 200 textile mills and garment factories contribute to the “Death of the Citarum River.”

As the garment industry went off shore, it went to countries less equipped and less regulated in the proper handling and disposal of the chemicals and by-products of the garment industry. In some places the effects have been devastating. The documentary “The True Cost” vividly depicts the health effects from the cotton industry (in Texas and India) as well as the impact of the dyes and chemicals in the apparel and footwear factories.

Finally, each time we wash our clothes, our synthetic materials put out roughly 700,000 microplastic fibers that eventually make their way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, according to a study from the International Union for Conservation of Nature released in February. While much remains unknown at this point, consumer products, including synthetic clothing, could contribute up to 30 percent of global ocean pollution and, in many developing countries, are destroying marine life habitats.

While the total environmental effects of the garment industry are difficult to quantify as it has not been subjected to sufficient research, it is patently clear that tackle global water problems undoubtedly also means tackling our fashion problem. Our clothes, as currently made, harm global water supplies. Real engagement in these issues from the fashion industry could make a significant contribution to global water quality. Our health, our future, demands that we try.