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Change Your Shoes: Report Explores Better Practices in Footwear Industry

Image credit: Nathan Dumlao

Change Your Shoes, an international campaign working towards a more equitable and sustainable footwear industry, has published a new report providing an overview of best practices in the shoe industry in an effort to encourage progress on workers’ rights.

The campaign hopes the case studies and recommendations contained within How to Do Better: An Exploration of Practices within the Footwear Industry will encourage companies, federations, policymakers and other stakeholders to learn from the work being done by industry leaders, and inspire greater cooperation between workers, civil society organizations and brands that will push forward the needle on human rights due diligence.

The practices outlined within the report are assessed according to their impact on five key areas of human rights violations in the shoe industry: improving working conditions, occupational health and safety, freedom of association, environmental issues and transparency and traceability across the whole supply chain.

“There are plenty of ways in which companies pursue an ethical ethos, and through our research we can see how different weight is given by different companies to ensuring ecological, organic, certified materials or fair conditions and social compliance, in production and in countries with a high risk of human rights abuses or low environmental standards. We have sought to find different practices which present an integrated approach and are transparent enough to reveal more than a simple commitment to ‘ethical production’,” said Dominique Muller and Anna Paluszek, the report’s authors.

The report presents case studies of brands — including Ethletic, Veja, Sole Rebels, Nisole, Po-Zu, Pentland, !Think and Van Lier — working towards a more sustainable supply chain and end product, as defined by a focus on ethical and fair production, collaboration with civil society organizations and multi-stakeholder initiatives, and/or ecological materials grown without harm to people, animals and the environment.

There are examples of initiatives of tripartite collaboration between main footwear industry actors such as the Fair Wear Foundation and enforceable binding agreements on freedom of association. The report also presents numerous labels and certification systems that monitor conditions in the footwear industry, as well as initiatives addressing endemic industry issues in a collaborative and holistic way.

The main finding of the report is a need for increased credibility — for brands to make credible claims to support environmental and ethical standards.

“Changes are needed to ensure meaningful due diligence by companies. Without behavior that supports change on the ground by producers — such as increased lead times, fairer pricing systems ensuring fair working conditions and living wages — there will be little improvement for the vast majority of workers and their families,” said Stefan Grasgruber-Kerl of Change Your Shoes.


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