And The Arcadia GroupAre they as ethical as they claim to be?
The fashion industry is riddles with controversy regarding human right. Whether it be sweatshops paying less than minimum wages, long hours, poor working conditions, child labour and in extreme cases even slavery. Topshop, to my knowledge, had kept a relatively clean image through the years yet I have discovered that student campaigning group People & Planet argue otherwise.
“We work with [our suppliers] to make lasting improvements to working, social and environmental conditions. Our programme is based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) core labour standards and other relevant guidance, good practice and regulations.”
Why won’t Sir Philip Green sign the Ethical Trading Initiative? People & Planet argue that with Green’s 5 billion fortune and title as the 7th richest person in the UK it wouldn’t be breaking the bank to implement an effective ethical programme. Joining in a campaign with People & Planet Gareth Thomas, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for International Development, said that he would love to see the Arcadia Group, among others, to join the Ethical Trading Initiative in order to drive up standards and pay in developing countries. “Our own ethical trading programme - and its resultant code of conduct - has been in existence since 1996 and replicates the ETI Base Code… we believe we can move our programme forward successfully without being members of any independent ethical body.”
Factories in Mauritius The Times Newspaper reported on the unethical trading at a factory in Mauritius working for Arcadia Group. The Times spoke to workers at the factory who claim:
One worker said: “There is a lot of pressure on us to get our targets. If we do not reach the target then we are sent back to our dormitories and suspended” When questioned Sir Philip Green’s response was: “I sent inspectors to factories to look at the working conditions, to see that they are not working in sweat-shops, that the working conditions are good. I can’t stand there and count how many hours people are working.”
Child Labour in Cotton Picking BBC’s Newsnight dedicated an episode to this issue. The report showed footage of police loading hundreds of children onto buses which transported them to the fields. The garments that were finally produced from this cotton included a range of hoodies for Topman. Sir Philip Green’s response was: “We rely on our suppliers to source all raw materials, and to operate according to our detailed Code of Conduct which includes the statement that ‘child labour must not be used”
Will I continue to shop at Topshop? Through a number of initiatives, such as the introduction of lines made with Fairtrade or organic cotton, Topshop has achieved a lot of positive publicity. While these moves do have value efforts should be more substantial. Is it really ethical to employ ethics on a part-time basis? I feel Sir Philip Green could be doing more to ensure his group has a clean image.
Signing the Ethical Trading Initiative would please many campaigners
Addressing issues head on rather than ignoring them would be even more beneficial
I intend on learning more about People & Planet and have become interested in getting involved. As a fan of Topshop clothing I will continue to shop their but next time I pick up an item I’ll be checking to ensure it is from their more ethical range. Hopefully, someday soon I won’t have to check!