Garment factory workersPhoto: SOMO

Despite public outrage about substandard working conditions, the global garment and textile industry remains rife with cases of sweatshop conditions, union-busting, gender discrimination, forced and child labour. The rights and safety of garment workers are systematically neglected.

We investigate employment and working conditions in the textiles and garment industry and analyse business models and practices – such as short lead times, hidden sub-contracting and unstable relations with suppliers – that contribute to human and labour rights violations.

We work with civil society organisations and trade unions around the world to improve conditions for garment workers. Among other things, we advocate for a central role for workers in monitoring and improvement initiatives and for binding corporate accountability mechanisms.

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the bigger picture

Sustainable Supply Chains

Many of the problems facing people in middle and low income countries (indirectly) result from the practices and policies of multinational corporations at the end of the supply chain.

This can be seen in the supply chains of the garment industry, electronics sector, food production and pharmaceutical industry.

Bad working conditions and unsustainable practices

Many people in these sectors are working under inhumane and dangerous conditions with little or no respect for labour rights or environmental standards. Excessive hours, low wages and precarious employment conditions are common in supply chains of the garments, electronics and food sectors. It’s no coincidence that those who are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation – migrants, young people and women – are heavily employed in these sectors.

Binding regulations and good practices

Together with trade unions and other civil society organisations, SOMO presses for the promotion and protection of the rights of workers, communities and individuals in all stages of supply chains. SOMO pushes for regulation, policies and practices that ensure decent work and sustainability, including legally enforceable corporate accountability mechanisms and a leading role for workers in monitoring and ensuring improvement of workplace conditions. SOMO promotes sustainable public procurement which, by mobilising the massive purchasing power of the public sector, can bring about structural improvements in supply chains.

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Updates on this topic

Garment industry in Myanmar far from fair

After years of sanctions, trade with Myanmar (formerly Burma) has started to flow. Low wages and favourable trade conditions are luring garment production from the region to this fragile democracy. Big and lesser known European…

Made in Myanmar

Branded Childhood

How garment brands contribute to low wages, long working hours, school dropout and child labour in Bangladesh

The leathermen of Pakistan

Pop-up photo exhibition: ‘The Leather Men of Pakistan’

On Tuesday 20 December photo collective NOOR, Oxfam Novib and SOMO will organize a pop-up exhibition in the Humanity House in Den Hague.  NOOR-photographer Asim Rafiqui traveled for Oxfam and SOMO to Karachi, where he…

Migrant labour in the textile and garment industry

SOMO’s new fact sheet focuses on migrant labour in the textile and garment industry. It offers buying companies a set of recommendations to minimise the risk of exploiting migrant workers in their supply chain and…

Cooperation in WellMade project

The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is an initiative aimed at achieving improvements in the garment industry. Eighty companies have already joined. Together with SOMO, FWF has been working on the Wellmade project since 2013. Sophie…

Hidden subcontracting in the garment industry

SOMO’s new fact sheet focuses on hidden subcontracting in the garment industry. It offers buying companies a set of recommendations to minimise the risk of unauthorised subcontracting and to ensure that production is taking place…