Ethical Indian Buyers Needed

Ethical Indian Buyers Needed

Industry experts have warned that global retailers’ efforts to clean supply chains of slave labour and improve labour conditions will have little impact unless consumers in India demand more ethically produced goods, according to a report by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

India is among the largest manufacturers of textiles and apparel in the world, supplying leading international brands. In and around the southern city of Bengaluru alone, there are some 1,200 garment factories making apparel for global brands. But it is estimated that the domestic market accounts for more than 40 per cent of the industry’s revenue.

Human rights groups said hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises use forced labour and treat workers poorly, with abuses ranging from withheld salaries to debt bondage.

“The industry has the most invisible supply chain. It is also mostly unorganised, which makes it harder to map and regulate,” Mona Gupta, a senior official at India’s Apparel Export Promotion Council said.

“Domestic consumers should raise their voice. If they insist on buying only ethical products, that will bring pressure on manufacturers,” she said at a panel discussion organised by the Thomson Reuters Foundation and the Asia Society in Mumbai.

Estimates of the number of people trapped in forced labour vary. The International Labour Organization said 21 million people are victims of forced labour globally, while the Global Slavery Index revealed there are 36 million slaves in the world, half of them in India.