fashion, Our planet, philosophy

The Labour behind the label

I have been awaiting something like this. An easily digestable account of the lengths that common high street labels are going to make sure that the people making their clothes are on a living wage. Or the shorts – most of them unfortunately aren’t  going to any lengths at all.

Labour behind the Label marked leading UK chains on a scale of 0-5, depending on how much they were doing to implement a living wage  for their garment workers.

So what is a living wage? A living wage means the earnings from a standard working week without overtime are sufficient to meet the basic needs of a worker and her family (4 people). It is distinct from the minimum wage because for most garment workers, the minimum wage is well below a living wage  –  most are working full-time and still not having enough for the very basic needs of life. And yet, the clothes they make go on to be sold with huge profit for the parent company.

Its a detailed report, and worth a look if you are familiar with UK brands and are interested in the garment industry. Its a bit of a beast to summarise because some of the grades go up in 0.5 increments. But I thought I could at least list some of the losers and winners. Its a bit sad though that no UK chain got a score higher than a 3.5 on a scale of 5.

Grade 1: Companies that refer to the living wage, but which use this interchangeably with minimum wages, or which argue that minimum wages constitute a living wage.
H & M
River Island


Grade 3.5: These companies can offer concrete examples of steps to develop and implement a living wage methodology in the supplier base, with clear plans to move beyond pilot projects.

Marks and Spencers

Complete  information at Labour behind the Label.

 The full list of chains can be found here.

You can send a pre-written letter to pressure GAP and H & M to address the wages of their workers here.

You can download the full report here

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