• Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
  • Clean Clothes Campaign
FAQs

 

Questions about the Clean Clothes Campaign



Questions from Consumers




Questions about Companies and Working Conditions


 


Questions about the Clean Clothes Campaign

What does the CCC do?


The Clean Clothes Campaign focuses on four main activities:

  • Putting pressure on companies to take responsibility to ensure that their garments are produced in decent working conditions;
  • Providing solidarity support in urgent cases of labour and human rights violations;
  • Raising public awareness about working conditions in the garment and sportswear industry and mobilising consumers to push for change;
  • Exploring legal possibilities and lobbying for legislation to promote good working conditions and to compel governments and companies to become ethical consumers.


We carry out these diverse activities on the basis of a clear set of principles. For example, the CCC believes that workers can best assess their needs and the risks they take when asserting their rights. Public campaigns and other initiatives to take action in cases of rights violations and the development of strategies to address these issues must be done in consultation with workers or their representatives.

How is the Clean Clothes Campaign structured?


The CCC is a European alliance of autonomous national coalitions with an international secretariat based in Amsterdam. Each national coalition includes NGOs and trade unions and sends a representative to the European Coordination Meeting three times a year.

We have an informal international partner network of more than 200 NGOs, unions, individuals and institutions in most countries where garments are produced. In addition, we work in close cooperation with similar labour rights organisations in North America and Australia, such as Maquila Solidarity Network (Canada), the International Labor Rights Forum (US) and Oxfam-Australia.

Why do you focus on clothing and sportswear?


By focusing on garments and sportswear, we can better understand the fundamental problems in the industry, offer recommendations on how to solve them, and make a direct connection with consumers about the clothes they wear. However, the problems we encounter in the garment industry - and the reasons behind them - are often the same in other sectors, such as toys or electronics. Some CCCs are expanding their work to include these sectors.

Has the CCC been successful in helping to improve working conditions?


Yes. Each year, the CCC receives dozens of requests from partner organisations and workers seeking solidarity support in cases of labour and human rights violations. The CCC has taken up more than 250 cases. With the power of international solidarity action, many cases have been resolved and workers’ rights have been realised: health and safety conditions have improved; dismissed workers have been reinstated; unions have received recognition; labour activists have been released from prison.

Some companies have responded to CCC campaigning by adopting codes of conduct and drafting policies on corporate responsibility. Although these efforts often fall short of what is needed to guarantee respect for labour rights, we consider it an important first step in the process of abolishing sweatshop conditions. It is our aim to hold these companies accountable for the promises they have made.


Questions from Consumers

 

Where can I buy 'clean' clothes?

 

We know that you would like a list of  'good' brands, so you know where to shop (and where to stop!).

However, the Clean Clothes Campaign exists to help empower garment workers on the ground to improve their conditions. In other words: we choose not operate as a consumer label that investigates everything there is to know about every brand. Instead, we focus on labour conditions and push for living wages, safer factories and innovative ways to empower workers to fight for their rights.

Yet we also understand that you are a consumer who needs or wants to buy clothes, and you want to do this in the best possible way. So here are our suggestions for how you could go about this task, now, in an imperfect industry, in order to support workers' rights on the ground.

 

 

First things first: Take Action!

It is above all vital that we think of ourselves not only as consumers, but also as conscious citizens who are concerned about the conditions in which the products we buy are produced. Your voice has a real impact. You can share your concern about the lack of respects for workers' rights and tell companies what kind of products we want. Together, we can convince companies to take action on workers' rights.

Everyone can use their power as consumers and citizens to pressure companies to respect workers' right.
How? Look here for what you can do!

 

 

Buy 'Ethical'

There are lots of companies who brand themselves as 'ethical' and retail across Europe and the Internet. Each of these companies has a different standard by which they define themselves as ethical, be it environmental credentials, organic cotton, fair trade cotton, or workers rights. It is important for these companies to be transparent about what their 'ethical' approach is about and to report publicly on their efforts.

Beware of wolves in sheep's clothing – many brands are called ethical but some are only based on few environmental credentials. If you want to support workers rights, check that the brands you are buying from support these too. You can ask your favourite brands about these things or look on their websites for further information. See below for what to look for and which questions to ask.

 

 

Buy from popular brands and retailers who are doing more to improve workers' rights.

The Clean Clothes Campaign wants to encourage companies who have taken some steps to improve workers' rights. No brand is totally perfect. There is no magic answer. However, some brands are doing more to help workers than others. We would like consumers to buy from companies that take steps to implement the Full Package Approach , in order to encourage them to keep doing it!

If you want to find out if your favourite brand is doing this already, you can look on their websites or request more information.

 

 

Tips to recognize who does more:

Of course everybody can decide for themselves what is most important, but Clean Clothes Campaign expects companies to:  

  1. have a comprehensive code of conduct. This means it addresses all ILO norms , such as the right to join a union and the right to a written contract.
  2. take serious steps to implement this code. For instance, we call on companies to critically monitor the way they buy their own clothing and to take measures to work towards the payment of a living wage.
  3. undertake credible stakeholder participation. This can include multi-stakeholder initiatives, but should always include formal possibilities for the workers to have a voice in the way the company operates.
  4. actively support freedom of association and collective bargaining. See the Full Package Approach for a full explanation.

 

Questions you could consider asking the brand :

  • What do you do to ensure decent working conditions in the factories where your clothes are made?
  • How do you support workers being able to negotiate their own working conditions?
  • Are you confident that the price you pay for your garments is enough to ensure that the workers who make them earn a sufficient wage to support themselves and their family?

If you are not sure how to evaluate the brand's answer, you are welcome to ask the CCC for assistance!

 

Vintage fashion and second hand clothing is also an option.

As a consumer you can buy things from second hand stores, borrow, swap, and generally find ways to buy less new clothing. The Clean Clothes Campaign supports this, as it is one way to slow down the ever increasing speed with which we consume clothing.   This approach also pays heed to the environmental problems of clothing waste and over consumption of materials.

However, we don't propose this as the simple solution to the industry's problems. Jobs for workers in the fashion industry are a life line for many. We feel it is our job to promote these jobs, but advocate for them to be well paid and secure. Buying less first hand clothing could slow down production, reduce pressure in workplaces, and help improve conditions. But it could also cause job losses for workers who rely on the fashion industry for their livelihoods, and not improve workplace pressure at all. We have no way to measure this effect. (Yes, we know it's not a pretty picture!)

It is also important to mention the big problem of waste created by the second hand clothing business. It is often the case that second hand clothing, when not sold, is dumped on emerging markets in developing countries, and their local fashion industry is damaged. If and when you support a second hand clothing retailer, it is important to ask questions about their waste and ensure that it isn't having this effect.

We realize that this is not a very clear answer, but it is all we are in a position to give, right now. The main point is that, as with first hand clothes, it is important to be aware of the possible effects of our actions, also when buying second hand or vintage. Clearly the long term solution to all these issues is that changes in the production process have to be introduced in which respect for workers' rights are embedded.

 

How much of the money I spend trickles down to workers? Won’t "clean clothes" be expensive?


In this estimate of a €100 pair of shoes made in Indonesia, just €0.50 (1/2 of 1% of the total retail cost) goes to production workers’ wages. In contrast, the company makes a profit of €13 (or 13%). Labour costs can vary based on many factors, but total wages are never more than 5% of the total retail price. So even in an extreme scenario, if a worker’s wages were to double and the cost was passed along directly to consumers, the item would cost only 5% more: your €100 pair of shoes would cost just €105.00. Alternatively, companies could absorb this negligible increase themselves and the consumer price would remain the same.

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Workers’ wages seem low, but isn’t that because the cost of living is so much cheaper in garment-producing countries?

The cost of living in garment-producing countries is indeed cheaper than in the global north, but garment workers are still not paid a wage that covers their basic needs, such as food, shelter, clothing and education. The Clean Clothes Campaign advocates a living wage – a wage that enables workers to provide for their families basic needs and allows them to participate fully in society and live with dignity. A living wage should cover the cost of nutritious food and clean water, shelter, clothes, education, health care and transport, as well as allowing for a discretionary income. It should take into account the cost of living, social security benefits and the relative standards of other groups.

 

The Asia Floor Wage Campaign has calculated a living wage for garment workers across Asia: www.asiafloorwage.org using Purchasing Power Parity, a hypothetical currency published by the World Bank.

Do you support boycotts of factories?


No. One of the worst things that can happen when labour rights violations are discovered is for a company to ‘cut and run’ - to abruptly stop supplying from a factory or a country and put workers jobs at risk. We encourage brands and retailers to engage with their suppliers in a way that doesn’t put intolerable pressure on workers to deliver clothes faster, cheaper, and under poor working conditions. We want to see long-term, stable business relationships between buyers and suppliers. This will give factory managers the time and support needed to improve working conditions, and it will give garment workers more job security and decent work, including the opportunity to organise and negotiate for better conditions. In very specific situations, and only after exhausting all other possibilities, we may ask a company to inform a supplier that it will no longer buy there unless labour conditions improve immediately. We expect such a withdrawal to be done in a responsible manner that minimises the impact on workers at the factory. For example, we would ask buyers to divert orders to a nearby factory that is willing to provide decent work and to give priority hiring to workers from the problem factory.

If there is a widely supported call from a particular country for a boycott to promote human and labour rights there, the Clean Clothes Campaign will respect this. For example, in 2001 the exiled Federation of Trade Unions - Burma (FTUB), together with a significant segment of Burmese society, called for support in their campaign to demand that Triumph International, a Swiss-based retailer of lingerie, pull out of Burma. The campaign was successful and in 2002 Triumph announced its withdrawal from the country.

 

 

 


Questions about Companies and Working Conditions

 

Where can I find information on specific companies and their labour practices?


Search the Clean Clothes Campaign website to find general information, research and past and present cases of labour rights violations involving specific companies. You can also check www.fashioncheck.net to learn about companies’ policies and practices. For brands that market themselves as ethical or alternative, see Alternative or Ethical Clothes
The following websites also offer substantive information about corporate behaviour toward workers, the environment, ethical and legal standards, etc:

 

Some companies claim to check their suppliers regularly to make sure working conditions are OK. Are they telling the truth?


Nowadays most major brands and retailers participate in some sort of monitoring program. Indeed, a global industry of commercial ‘social auditing’ firms has emerged. Unfortunately, social auditing has been characterised by deceit on the part of factory management, complacency on the part of retailers and brands, and only superficial interest in the experience of workers. Workers rarely can participate in the auditing process without fear of reprisal. Rights-based problems like violations of freedom of association are easily overlooked.

The Clean Clothes Campaign argues that credible efforts to implement codes of conduct cannot rely on social auditing alone, but must be combined with other tools to address violations of workers rights including: partnership with local organisations, grievance and complaint mechanisms, education and training, a pro-active approach to freedom of association, addressing existing business or purchasing practices, effective remediation and transparency.

What responsibility should a company have for workers it doesn’t employ?


In today’s global economy, the clothes we wear will have been sewed by workers across an ocean and passed from one business to another before being sold for a tidy profit by a retailer whose name we all know. The Clean Clothes Campaign believes a company's responsibility encompasses its complete supply chain all the way down to home-based workers.

All companies -- large and small -- are able to commit resources to monitoring the quality control of their products. If they can do that, then they should be able to commit sufficient resources to ensuring that workers enjoy decent working conditions and respect for human and labour rights. Larger companies may find it easier to do this single-handedly than small or medium-sized companies. But all companies, regardless of size, can collaborate and join projects with industry associations to exchange information on systems, methods and procedures, and share the cost of monitoring and verifying conditions in their supply chains. In the Netherlands, for example, small and medium-sized retailers and producers can participate in the Fair Wear Foundation through industry federations MITEX and MODINT.

Shouldn’t governments be responsible for regulating working conditions?


Yes, all governments have a responsibility to protect the rights of workers, and to regulate companies and foreign investment. Many garment workers, however, live in countries where trade unions are banned, labour laws are not enforced and corruption is rampant. The Clean Clothes supports our partners as they lobby for better laws and law enforcement in their countries.

But one government cannot solve the problem alone and a single government's power against large companies is sometimes limited. Brands, however, have the size, power – and responsibility – to assert tremendous influence on the global garment industry and to ensure that working conditions meet a higher international standard.

What should a company do when human or labour rights violations are discovered in its supply chain?


You’ve probably read a shocking story in the newspaper about horrible conditions discovered at a factory making clothes for a well-known brand. The brand’s spokesperson says, “As soon as we learned of the violations, we stopped doing business with the factory.” The result: workers lose their jobs, working conditions don’t improve, or worse still, garment workers may feel that better working conditions are a threat to their livelihoods.

The Clean Clothes Campaign expects companies to work out an improvement plan with factories found to be violating human rights and labour standards. They should make a long-term commitment to the supplier to give them the time to make changes and they should involve workers and local and international organisations in the process.

What is a code of conduct and why does it matter?


Successful campaigning by the Clean Clothes Campaign and other labour rights’ organisations has led many businesses to adopt “codes of conduct,” a list of standards that companies expect from suppliers. Company codes vary by content as well as commitment. The CCC pushes companies to give these codes real meaning by including provisions for implementation, monitoring and verification, and dispute resolution.

The Clean Clothes Campaign considers a code of conduct good if the scope is clear and it extends to all garment-making units in the entire subcontracting chain. The CCC's model code of conduct for the garment industry is comprised of the core labour standards of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and several additional standards. These include: freedom of association and the right to organise; the right to bargain collectively; a living wage; maximum limit on hours of work; healthy and safe working conditions; security of employment; no discrimination; no forced labour; and no child labour. Read the Clean Clothes Campaign Model Code.

A code of conduct can be a strategic tool for getting companies to comply with international labour standards. The CCC has campaigned to hold companies accountable for promises they have made in their code of conduct. While codes of conduct are no substitute for adequately enforced protection under national law, they can offer workers leverage for demanding better working conditions and are a first step in the long road toward eliminating abuses in the garment industry.

What are ILO conventions and core labour standards?


The International Labour Organisation (ILO) is a tripartite organisation consisting of trade unions, governments and companies, and is part of the United Nations system. In 1998, the ILO produced the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. In the Declaration, ILO member states agreed that they should all respect, promote, and realise core labour standards (whether they have been ratified or not).

  • The core labour standards consist of five standards, laid out in eight conventions:
  • Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining (Convention No. 87 & No. 98)
  • The elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour (Convention No. 29 & No. 105)
  • The effective abolition of child labour (Convention No. 138 & No. 182)
  • The elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (Convention No. 100 & No. 111)


The CCC calls upon companies to respect, in addition to these, the following internationally recognized labour rights: the right to a living wage based on a regular working week that does not exceed 48 hours; humane working hours with no forced overtime; a safe and healthy workplace free from harassment; and a recognised employment relationship with labour and social protection. These rights have also been laid down in ILO conventions and recommendations and in the UN declaration on human rights and are essential to workers in the garment industry.

 

 
 


 
 

Archive site!

This is the archive of the old Clean Clothes Campaign website, to allow people to locate some specific, and really old content.

It won't be updated anymore, and hasn't been updated since april 2013.

Our current website at www.cleanclothes.org has all up-to-date resources available, so please go there for current information.

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