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Title: An empirical study on factors affecting labor exploitation due to supply chain in fast

fashion and their relation to the SDG goals.


Ms. Stuti Kapoor (Undergraduate 2 nd year Student of fashion and

lifestyle Business management)

Pearl Academy, A-21, Naraina industrial area, New Delhi

Email: stuti.14062@stu.pearlacademy.com


Ms. Kavya Manektala

(Undergraduate 1 st year Student of fashion and

lifestyle Business management)

Pearl Academy, A-21, Naraina industrial area, New Delhi

Email- kavyamanektala@gmail.com


This research paper focuses on how labor is exploited in fast fashion supply chain. The same has
an impact on sustainability and human development. This will be studied in the context of the
SDG formulated specifically goals 5 & 8. The research will first study factors due to which labor
is exploited, companies which for competitive pricing try to outsource from developing countries
where labor is cheap and labor laws are not implemented. In the second phase, the influence of
these factors will be studied in relation to the SDG principles of UN with reference to adopting
of new methods and practices for creating sustainable fashion. The conclusions of the research
will help the companies already working on or implementing the SDG goals to be able to
propagate the concept of sustainable fashion among their present consumers.

” Workforce is one of the most valuable assets to any organization. Depravation from a healthy
working environment can affect the productivity levels of the employees, disturb the smooth
functioning of operations and lead to lack of worker commitment.” (Anon., n.d.)

The rapid growth of international fast fashion giants like Primark and Zara has created a demand
for mass production to gratify the ‘wants’ of fashion-conscious consumers. According to
Rosenblum (2015), there are two keys that contribute to the success of fast fashion – affordable
prices and a fresh, regular supply of trendy clothing

The outsourcing of labor is not only restricted to the developing countries of Asia but also finds
its remnants in the European world. Garment workers in Europe work on extremely low wages.
The frequent belief “Made in Europe” stands for fair fashion was encountered and researched
upon. The monthly minimum wage in 2015 was EUR 312 in Poland and EUR 390 in the Czech
Republic. Workers were found to be stitching clothes for high – end labels such as Hugo Boss
and Calvin Klein. (Clean Clothes Campaign,2016)

The collapse of the eight-floor building Rana Plaza Complex in Bangladesh 2013, where
apparels for labels like Mango, Primark and United Colours of Benetton were manufactured. The
unhealthy working conditions led to the collapse within 90 seconds killing more than 1000
workers. The unions have referred to this as ‘mass industrial homicide’ (Anon., n.d.) In 2017
shoppers at Zara stores in Turkey found secret notes, strategically hidden in garments reading “I
made the clothes you are about to buy, but I didn’t get paid for it.” The notes were hidden by the
workers of a local company Bravo Tekstil, which went bankrupt overnight in July 2016. Due to
the bankruptcy laborers weren’t given wages which left them with no option but to hide notes in
garments, in order to raise awareness about their exploitative conditions. (Girit, 2017)

According to Preuss (2013) despite extremely low wages and unhygienic working conditions, the
workers have made peace with their situation. A large part of women makes up the workforce in
the garment industry. Since a lot of women come from households of domestic abuse, they
believe in earning a low wage as opposed to no wage. And women contribute to 80% of the
supply chain in garment industries. (UNECE,2018)

Incidents like these shed light on the inhumane working conditions, vulnerability and the
helplessness of the workers in the garment industry. In the high street fashion stores of Europe
and America, it is frequent to stumble upon garment labels reading “Made in India,” “Made in
Bangladesh,” or “Made in Turkey.” A lot of these clothes are retailed at throwaway prices like
$5 or $10, making trendy clothing affordable for all. But little does the consumer consider the
amount of exploitation behind every produce of fast fashion. (based on personal observations)

Review of literature:

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by the United Nations in 2015, also known as
global goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all
people enjoy peace and prosperity (UNDP,2015). The 8th and the 5th sustainable development
goal can be intricately be linked to the fashion industry, as the 5th SDG – Gender Equality, aims
to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls whereas the 8th SDG – Decent
Work and Economic Growth aims to promote sustained, inclusive sustainable economic growth,
Full and productive employment and decent work for all.

However, even if the company’s want to take charge of the eradication of slaved labor, it
becomes a tedious task for them, since it is hindered by the current legal system. If brands
implement the eradication of exploitation of labor, they become fully responsible for their global
supply chains, they then become accountable for the concerned legal system. In order to avoid
the legality and responsibility that comes from taking direct control over production and supply
chains, hence the brands tend to avoid it. For that brands are legally only responsible for supplier
actions that directly fall under its jurisdiction. (Read and Monagham, 2017)

After the era of fast fashion started in the 1960s, 20 years later its severe ill effects have started
becoming visible. This lead to investment in research and development for sustainable
technologies and the creation of laws for protecting both natural and human resources.

Thus, companies are now using and adapting to circular production model which recycles and
transforms the product to its original fibers and components to be recreated as a new product.
The vision of a circular model to practice zero wastes (Anon., n.d.) Reducing the impact of the
environmental footprint of a mass production model. A Swedish consultancy firm green strategy
created a platform for the industry for circular fashion for brands to collaborate for longevity and
design for a purpose (Lejeune, n.d.).

This has already been put into implementation by many companies like C&A, Patagonia,
Everlane, people Tree etc. (Anon., n.d.)

These are companies producing clothes at the similar pricing that of fast fashion but maintain an
approach of sustainability. Patagonia is the first company being most effective in implementing
sustainability as being certified as B crop by B lab. (Lim, 2016,)

The companies show their certification and credibility with collaborating with organizations that
make supply chain more visible for consumers and can check ethical trade practices for
Companies like C&A are publishing their sustainability reports (Anon., 2016) which shows their
credentials like a GOLD level Cradle-to-Cradle Certified (TM) garment which is made of 100%
organic cotton certified according to the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Global
Recycled Standard (GRS) and other standardized ratings with using blockchain technology that
making practices of companies more transparent.

Companies like DNA forensic technology and Transparency company help brands get less
opaque and this started companies to have a ranking on transparency index. This has made
brands like C& A making their brand having Sustainable lives(workforce), Products and supply
Laws like Duty of care laws (France) are forcing companies to precise transparent and ethical
business (Koh, 2017)

These laws and movements even force fast fashion Brands taking sustainability into account
have adapted some basic inanities to be a part of a sustainable revolution. Companies Like H&m
launching conscious range and Zara and Primark implementing measures to reduce climate
emissions, using preferable raw materials such as organic cotton for at least some of its
garments, by signing the Detox Commitment to eliminate hazardous chemicals, or by
collaborating with several organization, like Primark working with Cotton Connect and the Self-
Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) to support over 11,000 female cotton farmers in India
such as Ethical Trading Initiative, to improve the labor conditions in its supply chain. (Anon.,

Sustainable fashion movement which has already been initiated and in a process in the world has
led to Indian companies being adaptive and aware to adopt these methods. Indian brands like
Pero By Aneesh Arora, Bodice By Ruchika Sachdeva, Grassroot By Anita Dongre, Doodlage By
Kriti Tula, Nicobar By Good Earth have started to adapt to sustainable business but are not under
categories of affordable fashion. Big corporates which are fast fashion brands like Arvind group,
reliance industries ltd, Vardhaman, Aarohana Eco-Social Development (Anon., 2017)

Reliance Trends has launched Swadesh(initiated by Gautam Vazirani, fashion curator at IMG
Reliance), their in-house brand, while Fabindia has a big marketing campaign around handloom
and western wear. This movement is not as effective and widely received as the west but we are
adapting cost-effective ways to implement in India

(Surya, 2018)

Research Methodology

Keeping in mind these scenarios the aim of this research is to find out “whether sustainability of
labor will be considered in the fast fashion industry. “The objectives of this research aim at
finding the factors that lead to the exploitation of labor in the industry, especially women, (2) To
determine the steps taken to implement infrastructural development of garment factories/export
houses (3) To determine the extent to which SDG 5 and 8 are being implemented in the garment
The research is exploratory in nature and focuses group interviews will be collected of the
laborers, responsible for the manufacturing/production of garments in garment factories/ export
houses across Delhi, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. A sample size of 200 will be selected including
100 men and women.


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Available at: https://www.fibre2fashion.com/news/textile-news/c-a-publishes-1st-global-


[Accessed 30 august 2018].

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Anon., january 2,2018. Business of Fashion. [Online]

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[Accessed 29 August 2018].

Anon., n.d. Fashion, 35 Fair Trade & Ethical Clothing Brands Betting Against Fast. [Online]

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[Accessed 31 August 2018].

Anon., n.d. firstforsustainability.org. [Online]

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Available at: https //rankabrand.org/retailers/zara

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Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/apr/24/bangladeshi-police-


[Accessed 28 August 2018].

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Available at: (http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/women-and-the-sdgs/sdg-8-decent-


[Accessed 29 august 2018].

Anon., n.d. What is a circular economy?. [Online]

Available at: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy

[Accessed 29 August 2018].

Girit, S., 2017. www.bbc.com. [Online]

Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41981509

[Accessed 28 august 2018].

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Available at: http://www.eco-business.com/news/this-company-wants-to-make-the-fashion-


[Accessed 30 August 2018].

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Available at: https://www.commonobjective.co/article/fast-fashion-can-it-be-sustainable

[Accessed 30 August 2018].

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Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jlim/2016/05/31/when-being-a-b-corp-is-better-than-

[Accessed 30 August 2018].

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Keywords: responsible supply chain, sustainable development goals