Brands don’t hire garment workers; supply management does. So why should the brand be responsible for factory working conditions?

The UN Guidelines for responsible business conduct make it explicit that brands are responsible for human rights violations all along their supply chain. In short: if you profit from it, you must make sure no human rights violations occur.

After leaving the hands of a garment worker, your clothes ship from buyer to buyer until a retailer sells them to you for a tiny profit. With so many people involved in the supply chain, CCC and many other influential institutions, such as the UN expects brands to uphold labour standards in every phase.

Brands are able to make sure that the same kind t-shirts are made, shipped and sold all over the world and meticulously control the quality of their product. Why do they claim they cannot exercise the same amount of scrutiny when it comes to labour conditions?

According to international standards, brand retain a clear responsibility to prevent, address, and mitigate adverse human rights impacts for the workers at the factories where they have their clothes produced. This is true before making the decision to start the contract, while sourcing at the factory and at the point they take the decision to leave the factory. The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) were established to address the pervasive problem of global companies outsourcing production in order to evade legal responsibility for the consequences of their business practices.

Brands must invest in their workers’ safety, health and dignity. If not financially, they must collaborate with industry associations, share best practices and the cost of monitoring and verifying conditions in their supply chains.