Fairtrade cotton expert calls on fashion sector to use its clout to reduce its impact on people and planet


Better collaboration needed to promote responsible sourcing of textiles.

Fixing the fashion sector’s problems has the potential to lift more people out of poverty globally than any other industry, Fairtrade Foundation’s Cotton and Textiles expert Subindu Garkhel will tell delegates at an inaugural multi-stakeholder convention next week.  

As the second largest employer in the developing world after agriculture, the behemoth textile and clothing industry has the power to evolve into a positive agent for change.

The International Convention on Sustainable Trade and Standardsorganized by the UN Forum on Sustainability Standards and the Quality Council of India, will run from 17-18 September 2018The conference will focus on finding practical solutions to some of the fashion industry’s biggest issues by tackling topics on international trade, innovations in sustainable global value chains, and sustainability standard settings, as well as government policies and multi-stakeholder frameworks for sustainable trade and exploring how the industry can leverage trade, global value chains, standards and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The textiles session will focus on how the industry can use multi-stakeholder sectoral initiatives and responsible sourcing decisions, such as the Fairtrade Standards for seed cotton or textiles in apparel value chains, to help prevent environmental pollution and socially unacceptable practices such as child labour, excessive overtime, and non-payment of legal minimum wages at various stages of garment manufacturing.

“Governments, brands and retailers, suppliers and consumers all have a responsibility to do their bit to protect the people who make the clothes we love, whose voices too often go unheard.

“As many as 75 million people work to make our clothes and 80% of them are women between the ages of 18 and 35. Without sector-wide collaboration, countless cotton farmers, spinners, weavers, dyers, sewers and others will continue to face daily exploitation, verbal and physical abuse, working in unsafe and dirty conditions with very little pay”, Subindu will remind delegates.

“The sector is a race to the bottom where businesses easily switch their orders for a few cents and move to countries where workers’ wages are low and their awareness about their rights low.”

“We are also seeing how US subsidies worth millions for cotton farmers distort global markets, with devastating consequences for small-scale cotton farmers in developing countries who are already facing daily challenges such as the impact of climate change, poor prices for seed cotton through to poor terms of trade. Whilst the US has reformed its regime following a WTO challenge brought by Brazil, subsidies are under debate again with the passage of a new and contentious US Farm Bill."

Although world cotton production is dominated by China, India and the US, cotton is vital for the survival of many low-income countries in Central and West Asia and Africa such as Benin and Burkino Faso.

She will remind delegates that governments also have a vital role to play to create change in the fashion industry through the right policies and its implementation.

Find out more information on Fairtrade Cotton.

Watch Unravelling the Thread | The Story of Fairtrade Cotton

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