Remembering Bangladesh: 3 things you can do

On Thursday the world will remember one of the worse industrial accidents in history. Here are three ways you can mark the day to tell the fashion industry – never again.

Film still by Nathan Fitch

Can you remember what you were doing when you heard about the Rana Plaza building disaster in Bangladesh? Like often with these things, the full horror of what happened didn’t hit me until a while after.

Now the main horror is that despite so many lost lives, little seems to have changed.

Except we – the consumers – have. On the Guardian website many people said they’ve changed the way they think and buy clothes since Bangladesh. People power is stronger than its ever been. This is illustrated most with the number of activities taking place this Thursday to mark the first anniversary of the disaster. Here are three you can do to get involved.

Wear it #insideout
Get up, get dressed … but put your clothes on inside out. I haven’t gone mad – the initiative is from the good people at Fashion Revolution Day. The idea it to make a statement about knowing where your clothes are made: showing what’s on the inside of the fashion industry, not just what we see on the outside.

After you’ve dressed, take a picture of yourself, upload it to Instagram and tag it #insideout.

Join the Twitter vigil at 11am
At 11am there will be a Twitter vigil to remember those who lost their lives. Taking part is easy – just click the button below to send your tweet.

[Tweet “I will not forget and I will not give up until fashion changes. #RememberingBangladesh”]

>> Read our Twitter vigil Q&A

Join a lunch time protest outside Gap
A year on and Gap have still not signed the Bangladesh Health and Safety Accord to protect garment workers from future disasters. War on Want have organised a range of lunchtime protests outside Gap stores. Why not pop out on your break to one.

>> Find the nearest protest to you

And if you can’t do any of those things, join the 1% campaign demanding companies invest more in worker’s rights.

>> Sign the 1% campaign petition now

What happens when you ask for a pay rise in Cambodia? These 23 found out

Last month 23 Cambodian’s were detained by police following a demonstration over low wages in the garment industry. Weeks later and they’re still not free.

Cambodian garment workers protest

In January, four people died and over 23 seriously injured when Police clashed with striking garment workers in Cambodia. Many more were arrested and weeks later are still being held, bail having been refused.

The textile workers were demanding a basic living wage. Cambodia has around 500,000 workers in the garment industry, which is a key source of national income.

Of the 23 arrested, only two have been released on bail. All face serious charges, despite many claiming to not have even been part of the demonstration. The 21 being held are at the CC3 jail, located in the Kampong Cham province in Phnom Penh, which is notorious for its harsh conditions.

The Clean Clothes Campaign are calling for the release of all the detainees, and all charges to be dropped. They said: “A wage you can live on was at the heart of the protests. It is a right everyone deserves and Clean Clothes Campaign will continue to support all garment workers in their struggles for a living wage.”

On Monday people around the world showed solidarity with the 23 with actions  outside Cambodian Embassies in Seoul, Brussels, Geneva, Washington D.C., Hong Kong, Berlin and Dhaka.

Photo: Clean Clothes Campaign

How to clean up a brand in 14 days, 6 cities and 10,000 tweets

Following an intense two week campaign by Greenpeace, Burberry agree to rid their clothes of toxic chemicals.

Burberry commit to detox

This week designer label Burberry committed to rid their children’s clothes of toxic Little Monsters, after 14 days of intense campaigning by Greenpeace.

The campaign involved a social media storm by concerned parents, fashionistas and activists, plus outraged mannequins storming out of their flagship store in London. Greenpeace volunteers in five other countries, from Beijing to Jakarta, the Netherlands and Mexico, visited Burberry stores, calling on the brand to clean up.

On their blog, Greenpeace said: “These commitments are proof that when people join together we can bring about real change.”



Gap win new award. For the worst company of the year

Gap have won a Public Eye award for the worst company of the year, following their failure to make factories safe in the wake of the Bangladesh disaster.

War on Want protest outside Gap

It might not be an award Gap are going to put on their reception desk too quickly, but “champagne corks” are popping elsewhere following the announcement they’ve been given the title of worst company of the year.

Last year Gap’s corporate social responsibility sunk to an all time low. Despite a number of investigations revealing Gap’s ties to toxic water pollution in China, Mexico and Indonesia, the company has repeatedly refused to take action to ensure our clothes are made without the use of hazardous chemicals.

They have also been accused of selling out worker’s rights in Bangladesh. After the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh killed over 1,100 people, over 100 companies joined the Bangladesh Safety Accord.  But Gap refused to join this agreement. Instead they launched their own rival plan, which they call the “Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety”.

While their plan sounds grand, labour rights experts argued the policy was simply more of the same corporate-dominated, voluntary measures that were proven to have failed in the Rana Plaza disaster.

War on Want said: “Gap has substituted a sham publicity strategy for workers’ rights and safety and leaves the lives of thousands of workers at risk. We will be keeping up the pressure to demand they respect the rights of the workers who make their clothes.”

On announcement of the award Greenpeace said: “Whilst the Detox campaign is calling for major clothing brands to create fashion without pollution, Greenpeace believe good labour conditions and environmental protection should go hand in hand. We welcome the news that Gap has been awarded the Public Eye Jury Award for its failure to bring about much needed reform in the textile industry following the Rana Plaza disaster.”

Photo: War on Want



Burberry mannequins walk out of UK flagship store in toxics protest

Rogue mannequins were spotted walking out of Burberry in protest over the toxics in children’s clothing. Will the company now listen?

Greenpeace activists at Burberry store

A group of rogue mannequins grew sick of modelling Burberry’s toxic clothes and walked out of their London flagship store in protest.

Burberry are accused by Greenpeace of harbouring “little monsters” in their clothing, which could be harmful to people and the environment. Already this week thousands of concerned shoppers took to Twitter and Facebook to demand the global fashion brand clean up.

Greenpeace activists at Burberry storeA Burberry shirt modelled by Romeo Beckham is one of the items Greenpeace tested and found toxics in. Greenpeace says they’re not dangerous in the short term, but long term exposure is unclear. It is also creating huge pollution problems in Chinese rivers that are close the factories where the clothes are made.

In a statement to the Daily Mail, Burberry said: “The safety and welfare of our customers is paramount and Burberry complies with all international environmental and safety standards. Burberry products do not pose a danger to customers.”

Greenpeace activists at Burberry store

Greenpeace responded by saying: “Until the textile industry detox and switch to safer chemicals, we’ll all be exposed to these hazardous substances. Whether you are a child from a poor background living downstream from the factories in Asia or Africa, or the wearer of a £175 shirt, all are impacted.

“The Greenpeace Detox campaign has been working with major fashion labels to solve this problem. We want to help Burberry become a real market leader by joining  the forward-thinking brands already committed to being part of the solution.”


When Burberry failed to Detox this is what happened on Twitter

When Greenpeace accused Burberry of harbouring dangerous toxins in their clothing, they failed to act. Twitter really wasn’t impressed.

Burberry please detoxLast week Greenpeace released a report claiming many a vast array of major brands had dangerous toxins in their clothing.

Among that number was Burberry, who since the announcement have failed to take any decisive action. When word got out on Twitter about this, folks were none too happy. In just 24 hours nearly 5000 people tweeted at Burberry to clean up their act. I think you can say Burberry had something of a bad news day.

The action doesn’t stop there either. Activists, fashionistas and concerned parents today are taking to Facebook to vent their frustration with this super brand.

If you want to join them, here’s how:

  1. Go to Burberry’s Facebook page:
  2. Choose one of their posts
  3. Leave a comment asking Burberry to Detox now and stop using hazardous Little Monsters to make our clothes
  4. Be sure to include this link in your comment:

Thanks to global people power, major fashion labels like Zara have already committed to Detox. We can make Burberry do the right thing to.

Photo: Greenpeace


Secret to a successful marriage? Don’t start it with conflict

If you like it then you should have put a ring on it. A conflict-free, ethical ring of course. 

Man made diamond ring

It seems a strange way to start things off with the love of your life: with a ring mined in a war zone, sold to finance war lords. Yet the battle against blood diamonds is not one we’re even close to winning.

After a burst of activity from companies like De Beres, who agreed to be 100% conflict free by March 2000, Global Witness pulled out of the certification scheme that classified diamonds as ethical. The walk out was in protest against the decision to allow exports from Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields, owned by Robert Mugabe and known for various human rights abuses.

It left consumers at a bit of a loss. Of course you could chose to mark your engagement with genuine human emotions, rather than consumerism. But if you weren’t ready for this kind of radical thought, the options were a bit limited.

But at last things are changing. Now a diamond can be a girl’s best friend, without her feeling guilty about it.

MADE Diamonds have produced a “diamond” using innovative technology. The stones are created by infusing enhanced man-made particles onto a crystal core, which creates stones with that look almost identical to diamond.

Made Diamond also claim to be 10% cheaper than real diamond, yet promise to be just as durable.

If these diamonds live up to these claims, they could be a solid solution to women who don’t want the shadow of war hanging over their wedding.

Thought little monsters were under the bed? They’re in your kid’s clothes too

A new investigation by Greenpeace shows that our children’s clothes a riddled with toxins. It’s not just the cheap brands that are effected either.

'Detox Our Future' Mexico

Hazardous chemicals are lurking in children’s clothes and shoes made by major brands, including Disney, Burberry and Adidas. This is according to a new investigation released today by Greenpeace.

Testing was carried out on products sold by 12 brands across the industry, including American Apparel, GAP, Primark and Nike for the report “A Little Story About the Monsters in Your Closet”. The findings revealed levels of hazardous chemicals in clothing made for children, who are particularly vulnerable to their the effects.

Chih An Lee, Detox Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, said: “This is a nightmare for parents everywhere looking to buy clothes for their children that don’t contain hazardous chemicals. These chemical ‘little monsters’ can be found in everything from exclusive luxury designs to budget fashion, polluting our waterways from Beijing to Berlin. For the sake of current and future generations brands should stop using these monsters.”

Among the results, one Adidas swimsuit contained higher levels of PFOAs than permitted in their own Restricted Substance List, while printed fabric on a Primark children’s t-shirt contained 11% phthalates. Once released into the environment, many of these chemicals can have adverse impacts either on human reproductive, hormonal or immune systems.

When the Detox campaign first launched, people power forced brands like Zara and Levis to go toxic free. We can do it again.

>> Visit the Little Monsters website to find out how to put the pressure on brands to Detox

Gap to H&M urge talks in Cambodia, but dodge their own responsibility

Retailers have urged talks between the Cambodian Government and garment workers’ union, but remain strangely silent on their own commitment. 

Cambodian garment workers

Retailers, including Adidas, Levis, Puma, Gap and H&M are urging the Cambodian Government to enter talks with trade unions after a strike ended in deadly clashes with the police. Garment workers have been demanding the minimum wage be doubled.

According to Bloomberg, a open letter called on the on the Government to engage in negotiations and support a new wage-review mechanism to avoid future violence.

Conditions in Cambodian garment factories have been so bad that thousands of workers have fainted. The workers claim their wages are so low they can’t afford basics such as food and health care.

However retailers remain fairly quiet about their own contribution to the situation. The Phnom Penh Post reported that H&M were “considering” raising retail prices, and passing the benefit on to workers. Helena Helmersson, head of sustainability at the Swedish clothing maker, said there won’t change in the short-term, but it “might be a possibility” in the future.

When Bloomberg approached Puma and Adidas they declined to comment beyond the letter. It’s easy to put a name on a letter. Harder to take decisive action to end low wage abuse.

>> Sign the petition to the Cambodian Government to end the violent suppression of garment workers

Photo: From the film by Helen Stillwell



More dead garment workers. Now in Cambodia

Four dead as police and garment workers clash in Cambodia. Take action this Friday.

Police block protest in Phonm Penn

At least four people have been killed and over 23 seriously injured, when Police clashed with striking garment workers in Cambodia. Many union organisers are still either missing, under arrest or wanted by the police.

The textile workers are demanding the minimum wage be doubled, demanding a minimum wage of $160 (£97) a month. The government has offered an increase to around $100 (£60).

Cambodia has around 500,000 workers in the garment industry, which is a key source of national income.

Labour Behind the Label, War on Want and People and Planet are joining forces with Asian TNC Monitoring Network to call on the government of Cambodia to end the repression. There will be a protest outside the Cambodian Embassy in London this Friday (10th January) to call for an end to demand respect for garment workers’ rights.

If you can’t make it to the protest you can sign the petition calling for an end to the Cambodian Government’s violent suppression of the protestors.

>> Sign the petition now


Photo: Luc Forsyth