Rick Relinger, Vice President of Human Rights and Operations at PVH, has a firm belief in the potential of fashion to be a positive force in the world. “There are 300 million jobs in the fashion industry supply chain,” he explains, adding: “The industry can be a source of inclusive economic growth and decent work, providing opportunities for people in developing countries when companies work to fulfill their responsibility to respect human rights.”
However, there are problems in fashion’s complex, global supply chain. People can face poor and unsafe working conditions; they may lack labor rights and a large number come from vulnerable populations, such as female and migrant workers. Relinger is clear that positive change doesn’t happen on its own, stating, “It’s important to have a clear vision. That’s why our ambition is for 100% of our products and packaging to be ethically sourced, and for 100% of our suppliers to respect human rights and be good employers. There is a long way to go but our commitment to amplifying worker voices is the first step on that journey.”
The complexity of the supply chain also means it is not necessarily simple for apparel companies to improve workers’ rights, pay and conditions. Making a commitment to workers and setting goals is often the easy part. Ensuring hundreds of suppliers – in many different countries and cultures – comply with international labor standards is where things get hard. Especially when they may have many apparel company customers with their own demands and requirements. A new, cooperative approach to improving working conditions is a step toward solving that challenge.