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Responsible fashion gains ground in Malaysia

"Even though demand for ethical fashion is rising, there are several reports that throw light on the ongoing labor abuses both in India and across the world. One such report by Trasparentem uncovers multiple violations at five factories in Malaysia. These factories supply to well-known Western brands like Nike, Global Brands Group (which creates licensed products for the likes of Calvin Klein and Juicy Couture), Asics, Under Armour, Target, Fruit of the Loom , Primark and Brooks are among the brands directly implicated."

 

Responsible fashion gains ground in MalaysiaEven though demand for ethical fashion is rising, there are several reports that throw light on the ongoing labor abuses both in India and across the world. One such report by Trasparentem uncovers multiple violations at five factories in Malaysia. These factories supply to well-known Western brands like Nike, Global Brands Group (which creates licensed products for the likes of Calvin Klein and Juicy Couture), Asics, Under Armour, Target, Fruit of the Loom , Primark and Brooks are among the brands directly implicated.

Report highlights precarious conditions of Malaysian laborers

The kinds of issues uncovered during Transparentem's 18-month investigation include the charging for recruitment fees for laborers in Malaysia. These fees, ranging from $745 to $4, 356 are high enough to compel laborers to sell their homes, mortgage land or borrow money from the bank. These laborers, who are often migrants from nearby countries like Cambodia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, are also misled about the amount they'd actually be making once they started their new jobs — so much so that many came to regret taking the jobs in the first place.

The underpay and excessive recruitment fees are compounded by disciplinary fines that these workers have toResponsible fashion gains ground Malaysia pay if the machinery breaks down while they’re using it or if they don’t achieve their production targets or make mistake in their work. For some laborers these fees pile to such an extent that they end up owning more money to their employer than their wages.

Besides payment issues, other issues that plague these workers include the verbal and physical abuse that they have face from their managers. They are also forced to live in unhygienic and overcrowded spaces.

Brands rise against inhuman factory conditions

Though the conditions are bleak, some brands are taking responsibility to change these situations. Transparentem's approach always contacts the implicated brands before releasing its findings to the media. Its founder, Benjamin Skinner, a former investigative journalist believes when you name and shame specific factories, the brands that work with them are more likely to sever ties to avoid blame In the case of the Malaysian factory investigation, of the 23 brands implicated, 17 have already begun remediation efforts.

One such instance is of brand Brooks, which expressed its willingness to share the cost of recruitment fee reimbursement with one factory, even though it had technically never authorised the factory to produce its apparel. The brand also stopped sourcing from that partner since 2015. However, Nike refused to accept responsibility for the abuses by its subcontracting on the pretext it had never authorised the two implicated factories to make their products.

On the other hand, brands Primark and Target were praises by Transparentem for pushing improvements in factories they had stopped sourcing with. That the investigation is having a positive effect on other facilities can be seen from the fact that four unnamed buyers extended their remediation efforts to another Malaysian factory not even included in Transparentem's report. Though still a lot needs to be fixed in Malaysian fashion manufacturing, the increase in number of conscientious brands proves that companies are ready to take responsibility for the ethicality of their supply chains.

 
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