Tell the government: we want a Fashion Watchdog | Traidcraft Exchange

Tell the government: we want a Fashion Watchdog

It’s time to clean up the fashion industry – for good.

Too many fashion retailers cut corners to squeeze out profits, at the expense of the people who make our clothes. Unfortunately, UK retailers are some of the worst offenders. It’s been like that for years. The shock of Covid only made it worse with millions of garment workers laid off and some forced to work despite being sick.

Unless fashion retailers change the way they do business, we’ll never see an end to poverty wages and unsafe conditions for the people working in garment factories.

The good news is that the UK government is weighing up a plan for a Fashion Watchdog that offers a way out of this vicious circle. The watchdog would make sure retailers treated their suppliers properly. But the government's ministers for Business are still on the fence.

We all know that the garment industry must change. It’s vital that together we tell the government that we’re watching, that we care, and that we won’t stop until they set up the Fashion Watchdog.

What’s the Fashion Watchdog?

The watchdog would make sure garment retailers buy in from their suppliers fairly and properly. In March, an important group of MPs told the government to set up a new regulator to help clean up the fashion industry. That regulator would be called the Garment Trading Adjudicator. We're saying Fashion Watchdog for short.

In the early 2010s, Traidcraft won the campaign for a similar watchdog for supermarkets. That has drastically improved the abusive way supermarkets bought in food from suppliers with knock-on benefits for the people who grow our food.

What the fashion retailers are doing

Retailers routinely make excessive demands on supplier factories including last-minute changes, faster delivery times and discounts on previously agreed prices.

The way the brands buy in clothes causes job losses, poverty wages, excessive overtime, and unsafe conditions for the people who make our clothes.

Many retailers pay suppliers up to 6 months after receiving the products. While factories are waiting to be paid, they have to pay interest on loans to cover ongoing costs such as material and wages. In effect, fashion retailers are using suppliers in developing countries to subsidise their business.

When suppliers are treated fairly and paid quickly, they can pay their workers properly and invest in making their factory a safer and better place to work.

Supplier factory owners have a responsibility to treat their workers fairly. But when retailers squeeze the factories, the factories are less likely to treat workers properly.

Find out more

  • Find out more about this campaign
  • The Environmental Audit Committee wrote in support of the Garment Trading Adjudicator proposal to Kwasi Kwarteng MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Read the letter.
  • Traidcraft won the campaign for a supermarket watchdog to regulate the way food retailers buy in goods in the early 2010s. Find out more about the campaign.
  • In Summer 2020, over 16,700 Traidcraft Exchange supporters wrote to major UK clothing retailers to ask them to honour contracts and make sure garment workers were paid. See the campaign