As majority of cotton farming and global textile and garment production happens in the developing countries, the textile and apparel industry is beset with issues such as inhuman working hours, lack of proper sanitation and drinking water, dreadful work environment and disregard for workers’ health and safety.
Though there has been a significant increase in awareness about these issues since the last years, nothing much has changed. Fast fashion industry survives on its offerings of cheap and disposable, trendy clothing as consumers’ expenditure on clothes has more than halved from 5 per cent in 1987, says the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Brands often pressurize factories to produce faster and cheaper clothes as they do not want to pay a higher price for clothing labeled as sustainable. Latest ‘Better Buying’ index reveals many suppliers in the lowest cost locations are pressured to lower prices as manufacturing has become a very thin margin and low profitability operation. These factories then try to save costs by under-investing in health and safety of their workers. An ideal solution for this could be increasing investments in these factories.
Investments to fuel productivity, reduce costs
Increased investments will help manufacturers improve efficiency and reduce their per garment manufacturing cost. However, these efforts need to be supplemented with increased transparency and openness to ensure that their benefits reach all parties.
Some of the root causes of low productivity in garment manufacturing are: poor managerial skills, non-adherence to data-driven methods for process planning and poor wage structure. Often, these factories do not upgrade to new methods of timekeeping and training due to upfront investments and uncertainty of outcomes. Hence, benefits achieved by efficiency improvements are directed towards the payments of these up-front costs. Therefore, the industry must support innovators who are willing to break these shackles and help the industry to grow.