The International Labour Organisation (ILO) was set up in 1919 to promote good and fair working conditions for all men and women across the world as well as advancing opportunities for all through enhanced communication when it comes to those issues surrounding employment. The ILO has a set of international labour standards which it consults on with government bodies all over the world, promoting healthy, safe and fair working environments for all and those working in the production of clothes, shoes and accessories for sale in the UK are no different.
One of the effects of the globalisation of the textile, clothing and footwear industries was the emergence of sweatshops and concerns were raised that without coupling globalisation with social responsibility and justice working conditions could be seriously detrimental to the health of workers and the sustainability of the globalisation of fashion. These concerns were first brought to light in the mid 1990s and brought about plans to introduce modern health and safety processes to minimise risk of health problems and injuries and to lay out guidelines for businesses, employers and those trading with developing countries.
All the ILO member states were asked to join forces in the fight against unfair trade and working conditions, forced labour and child labour in an attempt to turn globalisation into a positive for all and not just for the Western World. The fashion industry sat up and took note and despite a slow start from some who were reluctant to jeopardise the good deal they had going in terms of price of materials and labour, as soon as companies realised the potentially serious effects of their choices on the human race.
Nowadays there are all sorts of ethical fashion labels out there but not many on the high street where the tide is slowly turning but where only one or two selected lines can be defined and marketed as fair trade. A big chunk of the barrier to full commitment to fair trade from all is price, unless companies can find a way to be able to offer competitively priced clothing and shoes as a result of fair trade and ethical processes they will find it difficult to make a successful business case for it. One way to start combating this issue is for consumers to invest in fashion and make ethical choices, once this starts to gather momentum, there will be a strong business case for all fashion to be fair trade and ethical.