Textile retailer tries to get rid of slave labor stigma

Textile retailer tries to get rid of slave labor stigma

Cases of sewing workshops with workers under conditions analogous to slavery have demanded a firmer control of the production chain from the sector and already guarantee that 100% of the suppliers of the 115 largest brands in the sector are audited at least once a year.

Despite the progress, according to Abvtex (Brazilian Association of Textile Retail), it still needs to reach the informal part of the industry. The association calculates that 35% of all clothing sold in Brazil is produced informally or irregularly.

“In the central region of São Paulo there is a very large community of immigrants who are often being exploited.”

Abvtex represents names like Arezzo&CO (Anacapri, Reserva, Arezzo, Alexandre Birman), C&A, Centauro, Riachuelo, Dafiti, Malwee, Marisa, Renner, and the groups Soma (Animale, Farm, Hering, Cris Barros, NV) and InBrands ( Ellus, Richards, Bobstore, VR, Herchcovitch;Alexandre and Salinas), who mobilize to ensure that employees are regularized, have their labor rights and freedom of association respected and receive PPE (personal protection equipment).

The list of self-inspection items made by the association includes questions about security and building structure and firefighting, provision of ergonomic furniture and periodicity of machinery maintenance – in all, there are 170 items.

Called the Abvtex Program, the compliance protocol started in 2010 currently has 3,888 companies registered. They are located in 620 municipalities in 18 states and employ around 425,000 people. The list is public.

A supplier that wants to serve companies associated with Abvtex needs to ask the association to join the program, and this also applies to subcontractors. In 2022, the program received the Human Rights and Diversity seal from the City of São Paulo in the transversality category.

“There is still this stigma because, in the past, some companies had in their productive chains degrading situations in outsourced and fourth-party. And the strategy [de divulgação usada pelos órgãos de fiscalização] was to make the strongest link responsible”, says Edmundo Lima, executive director of Abvtex.

In the main textile hubs in Brazil –he highlights Santa Catarina and São Paulo–, the industry has reinforced monitoring mechanisms to comply with all legal requirements and, more recently, also with the other parameters of the ESG agenda (acronym for social, environmental and safety practices). governance), such as addressing environmental issues and combating moral and sexual harassment.

According to the Information and Statistics Panel of the Labor Inspection in Brazil, since 2010, 494 workers have been rescued by inspection in the manufacture of garments. In 2022, 39 were rescued from these companies, out of a total of 2,575.

“It’s an important topic and that’s why we started creating the program [de auditoria]. Retailers were unaware of all these contracting and subcontracting links, all of this was an evolution.”

Abvtex’s executive director also says that from 2023 the program wants to take the audit to the other links in the chain and include weaving and spinning mills in the monitoring.

For Edmundo Lima, the big brands are shy about the actions they promote to ensure compliance in the sector. A little over a year ago, they launched the ModaComVerso movement, in an effort by the sector to give more visibility to good labor and production practices.

It is also an effort to transform these investments made by retailers into a consumer decision. “We want that in the purchase decision, the consumer privileges who really assumes these commitments, that he also acts in a responsible way”, says the Executive.

Cases of slave labor made public in recent years involved clothing that produced for brands such as Animale, M.Officer and Le Lis Blanc.

The cases involved outsourcing and even outsourcing services. A confection contracted by a brand took part of the production to a second company. In the textile branch of clothing production, it is common for each phase of the process to be with a different company.

The cuts are made in one place, the stitching in another. Sometimes even the finish goes to another workshop. There is also specialization, so that not all garments work with the same fabrics and finishes, pulverizing the chain into several small suppliers.

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