Thank you to Anita Phillips and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) for thinking outside the box and organising a panel discussion facing the real issue of ‘Modern Slavery’ within the fashion industry, held at the HULA warehouse space.
Esteemed panelists included; Aditi Wanchoo, Senior Manager, Development Partnerships Social & Environmental Affairs, APAC at Addidas, Matt Friedman CEO of TheMekong Club (a charity fighting modern slavery), Adelaide Luke, Partner at HSF, moderated by Tess Lumsdaine, Employee Lawyer at HSF.
According to the International Labour Organisation, workers in the apparel manufacturing industry are often exploited and forced to work in unsafe conditions, with a lack of transparency in global supply chains feeding the problem. Modern slavery is a byproduct.
Modern slavery takes many forms and an estimated 45 million people (many of them women and children, often migrants) are considered to be in some form of slavery – human trafficking, forced labour, sex-trade, debt bondage, forced marriage. Laws in many jurisdictions, including the UK, US, Australia, and elsewhere (draft bill in HK; are responding).
Over half of the 45 million victims of modern slavery are thought to be in forced labour. Many industries are at fault but retail is one sector where unsafe working conditions and hours, child labour, etc, has been well documented. Fashion is US$3 trillion industry, yet one of the biggest polluters and those producing clothes in factories often work in unsafe conditions, earning very little. High-street brands offering catwalk-worthy clothes at a fraction of the price do so by cutting overheads. Opaque supply chains hide the problem.
We discussed in-depth, ways to prevent this from an industry, social and legal point of view. Thank you to the panellists for such thought-provoking discussion and to all those who came – see you again soon!