Three ways to make the fashion industry more ethical

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3 ways to make the fashion industry more ethical


Safia Minney writes about three types of technology and how they could help change the fashion industry’s relationship with the workers who make our clothes

In only 90 seconds, the Rana Plaza factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed in 2013. 1,134 workers died and 2500 more were injured.

But it took weeks for some clothing companies to find out that their clothing was made there.

The supply chains in the fashion industry are complicated. Many companies work across many countries and often don’t know who is doing the work. Often different people buy the fibre, make the fabric, make the clothes and decorate them. If the company doesn’t know who does the work, it’s difficult to check on the human rights of the workers and the environmental laws.

These three things could help make the supply chains clearer:

1. Knowlabel

Knowlabel is a digital label that shows the effect of what you are wearing on humans and the environment.

Fashion companies use it to show the story behind their products and link the money in their supply chains to how much they sell.

When you are in a shop, tap the Knowlabel digital label with your phone; you then discover the story behind products, including the effect on people and the planet, and how to care for clothing in the most environmentally friendly way.

Marianne Hughes started Knowlabel. She says technology can help make the discovery of the stories behind your clothing exciting.

‘Many people say that people don’t care – but this is unfair,’ she says. ‘I don’t think people have the option to care at the moment, because they don’t know enough information.’

2. What3words

What3words is a ‘mobile mapping app’. It gives a unique combination of only three words to identify an area 3m2 x 3m2 anywhere on the planet. There are 57 trillion of these squares and each one has a different three-word name.

If you don’t have a real address, this can be frustrating and cost money in the rich world; but in the developing world it can be a very serious problem for people and stop the country growing.

People can use the three-word addresses to talk about where they live and register for health, financial or government services. An address makes people visible to the state. They can join the formal economy and have rights.

In developing countries, if people have an address, they can check and fix water points, they can ask for humanitarian aid or get microfinance, local businesses can do well, and people can find hospitals and schools. Clare Jones, Global Partnerships Director of what3words says: ‘With more accurate information, we can see what is happening in the supply chains and improve delivery. We can now find the people who need support, if they live in slums, favelas or remote, rural regions.’


This is from Slave to Fashion. You can buy the book here:

3. On our Radar

On our Radar is a small team of journalists, digital storytellers and development workers who are working for change and action. With Fashion Revolution and New Internationalist, they have created 6 short films and stories about garment workers in Bangladesh:

People need to talk about what affects their lives. If people talk, this can improve the industry.

Statistics can be worrying, but stories give the human context, which can help people do something about the problems. Stories can present the whole story that statistics can’t. For example: statistics can show that there are children in a factory, and make people worried about child labour; but if you get the mothers to talk, they might say they take their children to work because they have no-one to look after them.