Last Sunday night I sat down to watch Greed which – spoiler alert – turned out to not really be about Steve Coogan sending up Philip Green – although it does do a fair bit of that.
No, it turns out that it’s about something much darker, much more important and also incredibly timely.
It’s really about fast fashion’s complicity in modern slavery and not just in the sweatshops of Asia but, as it turns out, in the sweatshops of Leicester.
The press reports in the Sunday papers on the conditions in the garment factories in Leicester are like a full-house of everything bad.
Watch the vlog here:
First of all, there’s the environmental impact of throw away fashion – which, by the way, can’t just be blamed on young people. I suspect we’re all guilty to a certain degree – I know am.
Secondly, the people producing these clothes in this country are predominantly from ethnic minorities and are overwhelmingly female.
Third, is the issue of the derisory wages and, most likely, a whole host of other financial and tax related issues.
And, finally, the implications on our ability to control Covid. Because sure as night follows day, an exploitative employer is hardly going to care about whether their workforce is safe never mind socially distanced.
The garment industry is not the only sector where criminal working practices operate: there are recent examples in some area of construction, fruit picking, nail bars, and car washes, to name a few, so this is an issue that is more widespread than we think.
Now of course, most employers are fair but here’s a quote from Winston Churchill in 1909: “It is a serious national evil that any class of His Majesty’s subjects should receive less than a living wage in return for their utmost exertions.”
The good employer is undercut by the bad, and the bad employer is undercut by the worst.
So, again, this isn’t a new problem either. For Talent Leaders, this is a real issue because although, you may not be involved in all the decisions about your organisations supply chain, you will be responsible for your talent supply chain, and for lower level contingent labour this will most likely be outsourced.
Now again, although staffing firms can have their own reputational issues, when it comes to the major players, they are sophisticated, and diligent in ensuring compliance across their labour supply chains.
But, as Winston has already pointed out, there are undoubtedly some who are lax or worse, and the danger is that in the current economy employers can be tempted to switch to cheaper suppliers who are less vigilant.
From our point of view, of the 11 areas of our benchmark programme the one which gets least engagement is supply chain effectiveness. Perhaps it’s because it’s not seen as sexy or exciting and more of a chore than other TA activities.
I understand that; regularly reviewing your supply chain effectiveness is unlikely to get you promoted. It is however likely to stop you getting fired.
Boo-hoo are in the spotlight because of problems with labour supply and whilst it must be said that there is no evidence to suggest that they had prior knowledge that a sweatshop in Leicester was supplying them, the City decided to knock £1b off their value. Just in case.
Being responsible for that is not something you want to have on your CV.
So perhaps think about it this way, raising standards in your supply chain can help improve sustainability, social equality, fiscal fairness, financial performance and public health. Who wouldn’t want that?
If you want to understand how your talent supply chain effectiveness compares to your competitors and the market more widely, the link to our benchmark programme is in the post.
By the way, if you are looking for a film that really is a great bit of light relief, I recommend Eurovision, Fire Saga. It’s an absolute hoot.
Benchmark Programme https://benchmark.talint.co.uk/