Skip to main content
BoF Logo

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.

The Fashion Supply Chain Is Still High Risk for Child Labour

A new report has found that progress on child labour in major manufacturing countries has stalled, with production of raw materials a particular risk for fashion companies.
Children picking cotton | Source: Shutterstock
By
  • Sarah Kent

LONDON — Progress tackling child labour in global supply chains has stalled, according to a report published Thursday, with the problem still a major risk in countries that serve as fashion's most important manufacturing hubs.

Verisk Maplecroft’s annual Child Labour Index found that China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Cambodia have registered no tangible improvement in the risk consultancy’s ranking of 198 countries since 2016. The index is designed to allow companies to identify the areas in their supply chain where they are most likely to risk falling foul of efforts to prevent child labour. It’s based on analysis of the frequency and severity of violations, countries’ adoption of laws and international treaties, and their ability and will to enforce them.

Source: Verisk Maplecroft Source: Verisk Maplecroft

Source: Verisk Maplecroft

The fashion industry has struggled for years to tackle child labour and modern slavery within its supply chain, which remains complex and opaque. Many companies have made progress, tightening their ethical standards and conducting more frequent and rigorous factory audits. But problems persist, particularly further down the supply chain, where many companies have little visibility.

ADVERTISEMENT

Production of raw materials like cotton and silk are a particular risk for brands. Few retailers are able to trace the origin of the material they use back to the farm, making it difficult to monitor. At the same time, agriculture is one of the highest-risk sectors for child labour.

For instance, India — the world’s leading producer of cotton and second-largest producer of silk — is considered an extreme risk for child labour in the production of both commodities, according to Verisk Maplecroft. In fact, six of the eight cotton producers the consultancy scores for child labour risk are considered high-risk or greater. The US and Australia are the only countries where widespread, direct evidence of violations were not present, it said.

Other key materials used by the industry are also considered high or extreme risk, including cashmere from Mongolia and rubber produced in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, Verisk Maplecroft found. The only natural material commonly used by the industry that does not have widespread links to child labour is wool, it said.

Related Articles:

Why Fashion Doesn't Pay FairOpens in new window ]

The Case for Radical TransparencyOpens in new window ]

Top Fashion Companies Come Together to Improve Children's RightsOpens in new window ]

In This Article

© 2024 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions

More from Sustainability
How fashion can do better for people and the planet.

Is Fashion Serious About Sustainability?

At fashion’s annual sustainability gathering in Copenhagen, the biggest question was why, after 15 years of discussion, so little has changed and whether a coming tsunami of government regulation can force the industry to evolve its practices.


view more

Subscribe to the BoF Daily Digest

The essential daily round-up of fashion news, analysis, and breaking news alerts.

The Business of Fashion

Agenda-setting intelligence, analysis and advice for the global fashion community.
CONNECT WITH US ON
© 2024 The Business of Fashion. All rights reserved. For more information read our Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Cookie Policy and Accessibility Statement.