Emily Au-Young

COVID-19 and The Garment Industry

We’ve known for a long time that the garment industry is broken. We’ve seen buildings collapse and workers die, environmental pollution at unprecedented levels, low wages keeping workers on the absolute edge of poverty, child labour at all levels of the supply chain.. In a one word summary, it’s exploitation; of people and of the earth.


But it’s deeply complex.


As consumers, we’re utterly unaware of the systems and processes that allow us to purchase a cheap t-shirt. At every layer of the system, there is more to be improved.


Unfortunately, if you’re a small business, it’s even harder to get all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. You don’t have a lot of power.

Which then makes it hard for consumers to know what is a good brand and what is not? We know there have been efforts by organisations to put out rating systems to help us decipher and wade through this enormous amount of information but they too, are incomplete.


Something like the crisis we are in right now is really a point that exasperates and exposes it all. We’ve been reading this quote that has done the rounds on the internet that, “COVID-19 is a great leveller.” But to be really honest, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Already, we’ve seen US$2.8 billion of orders be pulled in Bangladesh, forcing jobs to be lost and factories to close. Livelihoods that were already on the edge of poverty are now forced into it full swing.


In any crisis, be it climate change, or COVID-19, we always know that the most vulnerable will be affected. We know that the virus will spread like wildfire in the Rohingya refugee camps. Unfortunately, as there are still so many unknowns, we don’t yet know what the needs are but we know that they will be great.


In the long run, we are hoping that it can be a moment to restore the broken supply chain. That this great level of disruption will mean that the garment industry is not built on exploitation in the future but for empowerment of both people and the planet.


We're working on ways that we can respond well to the places most affected, and we are currently in conversations with our local partners in Dhaka with how this might best be done and how we can be part of a positive and hopeful future forward.

  • Grey Facebook Icon
  • Grey Instagram Icon
© 2020 Reemi Charitable Trust CC56441