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HML TEXTILE GUIDES

Textiles & Social Equity

Before clothes end up in our closets, they are a part of a highly labor-intensive industry that employs around 300 million people worldwide.1 The industry is built on exploitative labor practices from farm to fiber, and disasters such as the 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza, Bangladesh or the COVID-19 pandemic further expose the cracks in its labor systems.

These exploitative practices built the textile industry. Europe and the United States became textile powerhouses in the 1800’s by using a massive labor force of enslaved people. These reprehensible systems set the stage for the industry’s rapid growth at the expense of their workers’ lives. These systems live on today. For example, it takes only four days for a top textile CEO to earn the equivalent of what a Bangladeshi woman garment worker earns in her whole lifetime.2

Across the United States, new bioregional economies are connecting farmers, processors, designers and consumers. These local textile economies are based in interconnected value chains that build wealth for workers and preserve the land by growing natural fibers.

1 Ellen MacArthur Foundation, A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future, (2017, http://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/publications)

2 Oxfam International Report

“The hidden and the forgotten dwell in the shadows of our clothes.” - Carry Somers CEO of Fashion Revolution, 2020 Fashion Transparency Index

DESIGN STRATEGIES

Transparency Targets

Support transparent textile brands and producers that share annual social investment progress reports, often called corporate social responsibility reports (CSR). Look for links to independent third party audit reports across value chains and compare the median wages of workers to the local living wages.

Equity by Design

Beyond material pricing, sourcing strategies should include social equity. Brands must advocate for higher wages for factory workers and be willing to pay higher margins.

Key Product Considerations:

  • Workers Rights: Was the textile and its raw material safely produced in accordance with fair labor protections? Were the textile workers paid a fair wage?
  • Accountability: Does the textile operation provide access to transparent information of auditing, compliance, or supply chain practices?
  • Community Development: Are resources reinvested in the community? Are textile producers investing in the local community beyond employment?

PRODUCT HIGHLIGHTS

The following selected products are a few of many that promote socially preferable life-cycle impacts.

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