TRAMPS? WHY DON’T WE TARGET ZARA?
Worried about kids and trampy clothes?
But spare a thought for the kids that help produce your kid’s clothes…
Five million children. That’s the number of children the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates is living in forced labour around the world.
Forced labour is not just children working – forced labour involves any work or service which someone is made to do through coercion. It is a form of modern day slavery. Forced labour can be committed by individuals but it can unfortunately also be committed by Governments.
Every year, the Uzbec cotton harvest begins in September – just as kids in that country are supposed to be going back to school.
Anti-Slavery International, Human Rights Watch, and other heavy-weight defenders of human rights have over a number of years, documented clear cases of children being taken out of school and literally forced to pick cotton to help the Uzbec government meet annual targets.
This is forced labour of children.
Uzbekistan is the sixth largest producer of cotton globally.With the exception of gold, cotton is produced with child or forced labour in more countries than any other commodity in the global supply chain, according to the US Department of State.
That cotton makes its way into the supply chains of well-known brands and onto the backs of Australian consumers.
The Uzbec government officially banned the use of child labour in the cotton harvest in 2008. But as with any law, a law is just a piece of paper without implementation. Implementation requires motivation.
This is where consumer-power comes in.
Fashion retailers want you to buy their clothes. We want our clothes to be affordable but surely not at any price. Companies respond to public pressure – it is simple economics.
In 2011, sixty leading companies signed a pledge to do whatever they can, to ensure that Uzbec cotton does not make its way into their clothing production.
These companies have committed essentially, to boycott Uzbec cotton until the International Labour Organisation verifies that forced labour of children has been eliminated from the annual cotton pick.
To date, the Uzbec government has refused to let the International Labour Organisation inspectors in.Unfortunately not all companies are taking part in this action, which greatly weakens the market forces being brought to bear on the Uzbec government.
Whether they sign the Code or take other action, practical steps are what counts.
For example, Target Australia has not signed the pledge but it has a strong ethical sourcing code to ensure that its products are not sourced from forced or child labour.
Target Australia has also publicly stated that it does not source any private brand products from Uzbekistan and to the best of their knowledge, cotton from Uzbekistan is not used in goods produced for Target Australia in other countries.
So while you may not like Target’s fashion sensibilities, they are at least taking a stand on this important issue. The same cannot be said for all major fashion retailers.
For example, Zara has repeatedly refused to sign the pledge, despite information suggesting that Uzbec cotton is part of their supply chain.
In the last 24 hours, Walk Free – a new global movement committed to ending all forms of modern day slavery - has added its voice to the call on Zara to sign onto the cotton campaign.
You can sign the petition here.
So when you are thinking about what to wear today, spare a thought for the kids – the ones in Uzbec cotton fields.
*Fiona David is the Executive Director of Global Research for Walk Free