When you think of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is notable that not many good things came out of it. But it has brought to light the environmental and social responsibility that needs to be taken into account by the fashion industry. Most of the industry is not ethically sourced; the pandemic has shed light on the matter and has pushed for a change.
The pandemic has brought attention to how unstable job security is within the global fashion industry. Workers from all rankings were laid off, from retail associates to factory workers, as well as an increase of leaves of absence due to the supply chain closure. Not only did the pandemic force an increase in unemployment, but it also shed light on how workers are being treated. Those who were laid off reported working for under minimum wage and in hazardous conditions.
Since more people have begun to pay attention to the mistreatment, a survey was released noting that 40 per cent of British consumers felt that helping underpaid workers across Asian factories should be at the top of the priority list for fashion companies to focus on and to help society cope with the impact of COVID-19. Tied with this, 40 per cent of consumers consider reducing the negative impact on the environment as a number one priority.
Having shed light on the issues within the fashion industry, many retailers are creating a plan to push towards a safer working environment, as well as the effect on the physical environment where responsible sourcing will be a shared commitment to social responsibility, environmental sustainability and worker empowerment. This will shift stakeholders to be engaged in the making process, instead of from a bird’s eye view when collaborating with others in the industry, suppliers and labour groups, while ensuring that standards are being met. Their engagement will allow them to scale their suppliers on specifics such as compliance, sustainability and workers’ rights.
Although these changes have not been put into place yet, COVID-19 has brought the unethical practices of the fashion industry to the public eye. This will allow for a change to occur as the public, ethical fashion companies, and directors of sustainability are pushing for this change to happen.