Act now to stop garment workers being abused

I read Hannah Marriott’s article (The truth about fast fashion: can you tell how ethical your clothing is by its price?, 29 July) and agree that “voting with your wallet [to fix fast fashion labour and environmental abuses] will only go so far … and won’t be possible for many people who are struggling”. We welcome her suggestion to write to MPs and CEOs – and there’s now something specific you can demand, a simple solution that will tackle a key cause of poor working conditions at its source: a fashion watchdog.

This isn’t just about assuaging consumer guilt. During Covid-19, brands cancelled orders and refused to pay suppliers for goods they’d already produced. Millions of workers, most of them women, lost their livelihoods and could no longer feed their families, let alone send their children to school. Those who did retain jobs had to work even harder in Covid-unsafe conditions. This revealed like never before the huge power imbalance between retailers and suppliers all over the world, and how retailers’ purchasing practices are driving the abuses workers experience in the garment factories.

MPs on the environmental audit committee recommended that the UK government adopt this watchdog earlier this year, but the Department for Business is still sitting on the fence and being lobbied by retailers who try to pass the buck on to suppliers. Please write to your MP to ask the government to establish a fashion watchdog. It will save lives.