We have seen dramatic changes in the garment sector in recent years. Trade wars and new trade agreements, technological shifts and changing consumption patterns have thrown the challenges in creating decent working conditions in a successful global industry into stark relief.
As Better Work enters its second decade, 2020 is the time to think both about what still needs to be done, and to reflect on the progress we’ve made to date. The industry needs stronger collaboration in the supply chain to tackle pervasive problems such as unsafe workplaces, long working hours and low wages. Urgent action is needed in garment producing countries to create an enabling environment for mature industrial relations, a level playing field for ethical businesses to compete and workers to realize their rights.
To address these challenges, two-and-half years ago, Better Work embarked on a bold new strategic direction. The aim was to work with partners to scale up improvements in working conditions and business competitiveness, and ensure lasting change.
The early results are encouraging.
By working across the industry in a number of wide-ranging partnerships, Better Work has been guiding industry stakeholders towards collective action for greater and more sustainable impact. In many cases, partners are responding by critically examining their own roles and introducing reforms to their policies and practices.
Through initiatives like the Better Work Academy, Building Bridges and Empower@Work, we’ve developed ways to share our knowledge and techniques with others – governments, unions, employers’ associations, brands and NGOs – who in turn implement them in new factories, new sectors and new countries. We have supported our partners in countries like Jordan and Bangladesh to reach significant agreements to support then to better regulate working conditions and industrial safety in their industries.
Donors too have supported our plans to shape national and international conversations on working conditions. Thanks to the recent engagement of the European Union, along with continuing commitments from Australia, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States, we are in a strong position to continue our work through this year and beyond.
Key to success is working closely with the wider ILO and IFC, to inform policy discussions and work hand-in-hand with colleagues in new programmes like Ethiopia. The ILO has also given us new tools to work with, including a framework to think about the Future of Work, and a convention – C190 – to help eliminate violence and harassment in the workplace. As Better Work is increasingly called upon to bring its expertise to these discussions, and with expansion to several new countries on the cards in the coming biennium, our ILO/ IFC coordination will only deepen.
We have so much more to do, but the results so far encourage us that we can work together to achieve ever bigger impacts. With the commitment from partners like you, we will continue to advance our vision of a garment industry that respects human rights, empowers women, and is an engine for inclusive economic development that speeds an end to poverty.
On behalf of everyone at Better Work, thank you for your collaboration in 2019, we look forward to working with you and wish you a happy and prosperous year ahead.
Dan Rees, Better Work Chief, Geneva, 10 January 2020