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Thousands call on leading UK footwear brands be more transparent

By Vivian Hendriksz


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London - 13,606 people are calling on UK’s leading footwear brands and retailers to become more transparent and share where their shoes are produced. More than 13,000 consumers have signed a petition launched by the ’Step Up’ campaign, part of the Change Your Shoes project created by a coalition of 18 organisations including Labour Behind the Label, urging footwear brands to take on great responsibility for the workers in their supply chain by becoming more transparent.

The petition was delivered to 11 brands in UK and 15 brands across Europe this week, including Office Shoes, Debenhams, Schuh, Boohoo.com, Dr Martens, Primark and Harvey Nichols. The campaign aims to shine a light on the poor working conditions home and factory workers endure stitching footwear for high street retailers and brands. Many workers endure extremely low wages, health problems, and insecure work, while the use of toxic chemicals and dyes in leather tanneries can cause irreparable damage to the environment and those living in the area.

Petition calling for greater transparency handed to Schuh, Debenhams, Harvey Nichols and Boohoo.com

Which is why thousands of people are urging brands to publish information concerning where and how their shoes are made, end the use of toxic chemicals in the production process of their shoes and pay living wages while ensuring safe working conditions for all their workers. After receiving the petition, some of the retailers were open to discussions on becoming more transparent, such as Debenhams. However, other retailers, such as Office Shoes, have yet to respond to the campaign or the petition.

“In London, Debenhams received our petition and said they are on track to publish their supplier list online this year. This is a welcome step towards greater accountability and we look forward to meeting them again soon,” said Nicola Round, Director of Campaigns at Labour Behind the Label. “In Livingston, Unison Scotland handed the petition to Schuh who said they are open to our recommendations. In Manchester, we were joined by local group Stitched Up to hand the petition to Boohoo.com, who have so far not provided an adequate response to the concerns raised in the petition. Harvey Nichols in London also received our petition and we look forward to further discussions with them.

Office Shoes refuses to receive petition concerning worker transparency in person

“But we are disappointed that Office Shoes declined to receive the petition in person, and have so far failed to respond to the campaign despite letters, emails, phone calls and a personal visit from campaigners,” added Round. “We are concerned that a leading brand appears to be actively ignoring questions from a growing number of citizens about the conditions in which their shoes are made. We will continue to try and speak to Office about their supply chain and about steps they can take to identify risks and protect workers’ safety and rights.”

“We’ve handed each of these brands a shoe box containing the petition signatures, along with testimonies from workers in India and Bangladesh to show the reality that shoe workers face each day. Rizia, a tannery worker in Bangladesh, earns less than 40 pounds a month and says she cannot sleep at night because of the itching on her skin. Selvi, a 21-year old homeworker in India, earns just 6-7 pence a pair for stitching leather uppers for shoes, hard work which causes pain in her shoulders. We want brands to investigate and identify risks to workers in their own supply chains, and take steps to improve conditions for the people who make their shoes.”

The petition was also sent to Asda, Boden, Dr Martens, Sports Direct, Primark and Very.co.uk. While Boden and Dr Martens have replied to the original letter sent by the campaigners, the other brands have yet to reply or issues a full response to the petition. “The growing movement for transparency cannot be ignored. A parallel petition calling on global garment brands to be more transparent, including Primark, has received over 70,000 signatures,” added Round. “As a result of public pressure, major brands have this year committed to publishing supplier information, including Clarks in the UK who responded positively to an earlier letter from us about the need for greater transparency.”

However, many UK brands are still not open to discussing working conditions within their supply chain and most workers fail to receive adequate compensation for their work. Although a handful of larger brands are becoming more aware of customers’ concerns and workers’ needs while proving they are willing to be accountable, it seems as if there is still a long way to go. “We will continue to work with shoe brands to improve supply chain transparency and working conditions, to stop workers risking their lives for poverty wages every day to make our shoes,” said Round.

Photos: Courtesy of Labour Behind the Label

Labour Behind the Label
Office Shoes
Workers Rights