The Apparel & Footwear Sector is Still Failing to Address Forced Labor
KnowTheChain released today its latest corporate benchmark, and finds that the apparel and footwear sector has made some – but far too little – progress in reducing the risk of forced labor in its supply chains, despite decades of being in the public eye for these abuses.
This benchmark is KnowTheChain’s third for the apparel and footwear industry and gives companies an average benchmark score of just 41/100. This is up from 37/100 in the sector’s last benchmark, but still unacceptably low.
Some of the key findings from the report include:
- Lululemon (89/100), Adidas (86/100) and PVH (74/100) are at the top of the benchmark, while ten companies, including Luxury brands like Prada and Tapestry (owner of Coach and Kate Spade) score 20/100 or less.
- When looking at just the indicators focus on worker participation and concrete outcomes, only one company (Adidas) scores above 50/100, and half of the companies benchmarked earn a score of zero.
- Only four of the 37 companies benchmarked could disclose multiple remedy outcomes for workers, while more than half of them have already been facing forced labor allegations. The benchmark focuses on this and other gaps between policy and practice.
- The sector’s greatest gains have been made in the area of recruitment, with nine additional companies now having policies that prohibit recruiters for companies in their supply chains from charging recruitment fees to workers.
The benchmark also found sector-wide improvement in traceability and risk-assessment, with more companies now looking at the lower tiers of their supply chains.
Workers in the apparel and footwear sector are particularly vulnerable to exploitation, with women and migrant workers making up the majority of the labor force, and the ramifications of COVID-19 have only made conditions worse. Workers in the industry lost at least $3 billion in income in just the first three months of the pandemic.
The report also explores how complex the industry’s supply chain is and illustrate how multiple materials that are themselves at high risk of forced labor are used to make a single garment or item.