Campaign action calls on Aritzia to lift garment workers out of poverty
Today, Oxfam Canada and partners are organizing an event in Vancouver to raise awareness about the difficulties faced by Cambodian garment workers and to encourage reflection on these issues. To participate, people can visit the Aritzia store at 1100 Robson St. from 3 to 5 p.m. PDT. Sewing machines will be set up outside the store, and passers-by can take part in a challenge to see how many garments they can sew in one minute.
Participants will also be invited to sign a petition calling on Aritzia’s CEO, Jennifer Wong, to take action on two critical areas: supply chain transparency and fair wages.
“Company profits should not come as the result of poverty wages,” says Nirvana Mujtaba, women’s rights policy specialist at Oxfam Canada. “Aritzia’s lack of a credible commitment to paying a living wage, opaque supply chain, and lack of transparency are concerning, especially as they celebrated record-breaking revenue last year.”
The poverty wages that garment workers receive aren’t enough to afford decent housing, nutritious food, utilities, education, transportation, healthcare, childcare and saving for unexpected events. The women who make our clothes must at least be paid a living wage that covers a basic and dignified standard of living.
In Asia, the women who make our clothes, on average, earn as little as $4 to $11 per day (1). In contrast, top executives of Canadian fashion brands are paid over $27,000 daily (2).
A living wage is a human right, as Article 23 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights states. Any company whose products are made by workers paid poverty wages violates that right.
“Aritzia maintains an opaque sourcing system with no public information on who their suppliers are,” says Mujtaba. “Why is Aritzia keeping its supply chain and factory list such a big secret?”
Aritzia scored only one per cent on overall supply chain traceability in the Fashion Transparency Index 2023. Aritzia discloses only the countries where their suppliers are located and the percentage of finished goods procured from each country.
A Cambodian garment worker earns a monthly minimum wage of only $262. After their monthly expenses for rent ($48), utilities ($7), baby milk and children’s food ($168), there is nothing left for the garment workers’ expenses on food, healthcare and other necessities. In fact, at the end of the month, the hardworking women who make our clothes find themselves $14 in debt (3).
“Transparency is foundational to the systemic change needed in the fashion industry. Brands have intentionally kept their supply chains murky and hidden in order to evade accountability for the gross human and environmental rights violations that occur within them as a result of their own unfair purchasing practices,” said Remake’s advocacy manager, Becca Coughlan. “With the climate crisis here, consumers, advocates and investors alike are growing increasingly intolerant of this. It is thus incredibly material for brands to disclose what is going on under the hood so that these key stakeholders can make more informed choices and hold companies’ feet to the fire when they fall short on meeting their labour and climate responsibilities.”
“Garment workers are the backbone of the fashion industry but as big fashion brands like Aritzia rake in billions of dollars, garment workers aren’t even paid living wages,” said Erdene Batzorig, digital campaigner at Stand.Earth. “Supply chain workers of fashion brands work long hours in grueling conditions and face high risks from climate change and pollution. We must look beyond the mannequins on display at Aritzia stores and call on the brand to provide transparent and fair pay to the workers who make its Melina pants and Super Puff jackets.”
Aritzia advises that they engage with their suppliers about economic security for workers. However, in the past two years, they have not reported any details on their methodology, timeline, or progress. Additionally, Aritzia maintains an opaque sourcing system with no information on who their suppliers are.
They withhold crucial information such as their supplier factory names, location, types of products made, breakdown of number of workers by gender and other gender identities of their sourcing factories.
A transparent supply chain disclosure should at least include the following:
- Tier 1 supplier factory names, locations, addresses.
- The name and address of the parent company (if applicable).
- The types of products made at each factory.
- The breakdown of workers by gender and other gender identities per factory.
- The sourcing channel (direct sourcing or through agents).
While Aritzia’s clothing items are celebrated for their style, it’s time they become equally celebrated for paying a living wage to those who make them. Embracing transparency is just a small step towards accountability.
Supply Chain Transparency vs. Opacity
Major fashion brands rely on business models that outsource garment production. When fashion brands refuse to disclose their supply chain, it restricts consumers’ understanding of the various stages of production, where it is taking place, and the wages paid to workers. Fashion brands in Canada must label any imported textile products with their country of origin, but they are not legally required to disclose their supply chain. This secrecy can lead to harmful and exploitative labour practices.
An opaque supply chain and lack of reporting by fashion brands limits consumers’ ability to make informed and conscious decisions and to purchase ethically made products.
On the other hand, transparency is a foundation for ethical supply chains and fair treatment of workers. Transparency also allows independent scrutiny, vital to providing garment workers with fair wages and safe working conditions worldwide. Publishing supplier and factory lists are crucial to securing workers’ rights and signals that a brand is willing to support the workers who make its clothes.
Publishing supplier lists also brings substantial benefits to brands. It enables brands to receive timely and credible information from worker representatives and trade unions, which can help mitigate labour and human rights abuse risks. Supply chain disclosure also enables collaboration with other brands sourcing from the same factory to mitigate problems faster.
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Notes to editors:
- Oxfam Canada’s calculation is based on minimum wages paid to garment workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Vietnam.
- This figure is based on publicly disclosed CEO compensation figures from Aritzia, Lululemon, Loblaw and Roots Canada, which pays on average $8.4 million (2023) to their top-paid executives.
- The statistics have been adjusted with the Cambodian inflation rate (5.3%) and converted from USD to CAD (1 USD = 1.31 CAD).
- All dollar figures are in Canadian dollars.
- Photos will be available here during and after the event.
- Download our What She Makes Campaign Brief
- See Stuff Companies Say
- Find more information about where Canadian fashion brands stand with our Brand Tracker Backgrounder