University of Aberdeen: Research contributes to call at Westminster for new fashion watchdog

UK politicians will this week debate the need for a fashion watchdog, one of the central recommendations to come from studies carried out by University of Aberdeen researchers.

Liz Trust MP will discuss the role of a regulatory body for the industry’s supply chain in a 10 Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday 13 July.

The Bill calls for a code of practice to be followed by retailers of fashion clothing, footwear and accessories in their relationships with their suppliers; to set up an adjudicator with the role of enforcing the code and encouraging compliance with it.

Research carried out by a team at the University and trade justice charity Traidcraft Exchange UK looked at the experiences of Bangladeshi workers employed in the ready-made garment (RMG) industry which supplies clothing and fashion products to multinational companies across the Global North, including many well-known UK High Street brands.

Their initial study showed that the immediate impact of Covid-19 and some of the actions taken by retailers – such as cancelling orders, refusal to pay for work in progress and demands for discounted prices – disproportionately impacted the vulnerability of women workers by contributing to an increase in gender violence, abuse and economic hardship.

A second study has been undertaken looking at the impact on factories. Both studies suggested that the UK government introduce a fashion watchdog to eliminate UK retailers’ unfair practices and ensure workers’ rights within the global fashion supply chains.

The RMG industry is the mainstay of the Bangladesh economy, accounting for 85% of export earnings, about 20% of GDP and directly employing about four million workers, with more than 12 million people in total dependent on the sector.

The research team included Professor Muhammad Azizul Islam and Dr Shamima Haque in the Business School, and Professor Pamela Abbott from the School of Education.