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2015-02_dc

Front page: Worker producing eco-jeans in a Tunisian factory. Photographer: Kuyichi Focus: Fabrics, clothes and fashion Depressing conditions Many young women want to escape poverty in Guatemala, so they look for a job in a maquila, as the textiles and garment factories are called. Workers tend to be exploited in harsh conditions, however, and some are even abused, reports Mirna Lilian Ramírez Pérez, a women’s rights activist. Page 14 Setting standards In many garment-producing countries, internationally agreed labour norms are not fulfilled, and environmental damage is ignored. Gerd Müller, Germany’s federal minis- ter for economic cooperation and development, wants matters to improve – and the Textile Alliance that he initi- ated is serving this cause. Page 18 Bangladesh’s laws make sense In the eyes of many workers, Bangladesh’s garment indus- try is better than its international reputation. Labour activ- ist Nazma Akter wants the government to finally enforce the country’s laws, but is not too keen on more interna- tional campaigns. Page 20 Expensive does not mean fair Clothes for famous fashion brands are produced in the same miserable conditions as discount garments, writes Gisela Burckhardt of the women’s-rights organisation Femnet. She wants production facilities to be monitored in a transparent manner, governments to take action and consumers to make responsible choices. Page 23 Farmers’ self-determination Many cotton farmers in developing countries are exploited by middle men and paid only very low prices. Fairtrade International wants to improve matters, and the organisa- tion’s Anup Kumar Singh explains what it is doing. Page 26 Clean jeans Kuyichi jeans are produced in an environment-friendly and socially acceptable way. The Dutch fashion brand’s PR chief Monique Voorneman discusses the company’s approach in an interview. In her experience, it is crucial to audit suppliers rigorously and to avoid destructive practices. Page 29 Innovative eco fibres Conventional cotton farms require a lot of resources and harm the environment. Textile companies are work- ing on alternative fibres made from algae, tobacco or milk. Moreover, they want to recycle more fibres. Marina ­Chahboune of the German company Hessnatur assesses the trends. Page 32 Editorial Made by human beings Conceptual artists made headlines in Europe last year. Labels that they sewed into garments of the Primark brand pointed out brutal labour conditions in the countries where those garments were made. Many consum- ers initially thought the labels were real messages from desperate workers in Bangladesh and China. In recent years, fashion brands and retail companies have repeatedly faced public outrage because of unacceptable conditions in their supply chains. Indeed, workers’ daily experience all too often does not reflect international standards. Typical complaints concern low wages, un- paid overtime, the lack of protective gear and even toilets. Again and again, accidents and fires have claimed many lives. To many globalisation critics, garment production is a model case of the un- fairness of world trade. The value chain is long and complicated, and a lot of work is being done by unskilled people. Since transport costs have gone down and trade barriers were dismantled, textile and garment are free to go where labour is especially cheap. In Europe, industrialisation started with textiles production, but the centres of the industry are in Asia, Central Ameri­ ca and North Africa today. The industry provides young women in particular with work and – quite modest – incomes of their own. Media coverage has been raising awareness in rich countries, and so have ac- tivists, for instance in the context of the international Clean Clothes Campaign. Most consumers are not staying away from shops because of such efforts, but they do know about the issues, as the willingness to believe in the Primark fakes proved. Many consumers do not want to benefit exploiters with their shopping choices, but they feel impotent in view of entrenched market powers. In the meantime, the industry is slowly beginning to respond to criticism. Though it is quite difficult to monitor the supply chains, labels for fairtrade and organic fibres have been established. Bangladesh’s trade unions are growing, putting pressure on the government to finally enforce labour legis- lation. Some big private-sector companies are keen on shoring up their repu- tation. At the same time, many small fashion brands are paving the way for better business practices: They are making production more environmentally sustainable and ensuring that suppliers’ staff work in decent conditions. The much-criticised garment industry is thus proof for us not being help- lessly exposed to market forces. Globalisation can and must be regulated. Corporate managers must assume responsibility, governments must enforce the law, consumers must take conscious decisions and the media must in- form the public. A lot obviously remains to be done, but change is possible in one of the world’s most important industries – and that means it is possible in other sectors as well. Economic systems are made by human beings. We have an obligation to de- sign them sensibly. Global trade must not be geared to compounding prob- lems of inequality, it must serve the goal of eradicating poverty. ********** After this edition, there will only be three more monthly print editions of D+C/E+C. From June on, we will provide you with a monthly e-paper. If you want to get an idea of what it will be like, please check out www.dandc.eu. We started posting the digital monthly version before this edition went to press. For more detailed information, please read page 17 of this issue. Eva-Maria Verfürth is a member of the D+C/E+Z’s editorial team. [email protected] 2 D+C Vol.42.2015:2

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