Report: Corporate Commitments to Living Wages in the Garment Industry

Over the last decade, leading global corporations in the garment industry have begun to make commitments to deliver living wages to the workers that make their clothes. • Under pressure from workers, unions and civil society organisations, who have documented widespread labour exploitation in global garment supply chains, corporations have made ambitious commitments to address these problems. Paying a living wage to workers in their supply chains is a key commitment made by corporations. • This report asks: what commitments have garment corporations made to living wages, and to what extent are these commitments being realized through changes in practice and on the ground? • The report investigates the commitments and actions that 20 garment companies have made to paying living wages across their supplier network. It uses primary data collected through a survey disseminated by the Clean Clothes Campaign to garment companies, as well as data collected by ourselves. The report also assesses commitments and progress made by a sample of leading non-garment companies. • We find that living wage commitments and action taken by garment companies varies widely, with some taking more meaningful steps than others. There are signs of progress but we identify seven significant obstacles to the payment of living wages: 1. Corporations have outsourced their living wage commitments to multiple external initiatives, which have unenforceable standards. Company policies are often out of step with these initiatives. 2. There is widespread inconsistency and confusion amongst corporations over the definition of a living wage. 3. Corporations lack living wage benchmarks and most lack a ‘roadmap’ for achieving their living wage commitments. 4. Corporations are reliant on social auditing for compliance and enforcement of living wage commitments, a tool known to be flawed and to produce misleading depictions of labour standards in supply chains. 5. There is lacking transparency among corporations about the wages that are actually paid to workers throughout their supplier networks. 6. There is weak enforcement of freedom of association rights which may disempower workers from raising concerns about unmet wage commitments. 7. Commitment and progress towards living wages in non-garment industry global supply chains is extremely limited. • We conclude that whilst garment companies have made ambitious commitments to pay living wages in their global supply chains they are falling short when it comes to meaningful action to implementing these commitments. • The report makes a series of recommendations for how to achieve more meaningful progress towards living wages in global supply chains.

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