Guardian Report Links Spice Girls Women's Charity Tees to Factory With 'Inhuman Conditions'
Responsible sourcing, especially for apparel, is essential. It's also proving to be tricky, even for those who try to do it right. Just recently, we detailed how apparel wholesaler Badger Sportswear was in major hot water after some of its products were linked to a factory that used a forced labor camp in China. Several schools parted ways with the goods provider, even after Badger Sportswear vowed to stop doing business with that apparel manufacturer.
So, it's a shame that the Spice Girls have found themselves at the center of a similar controversy, according to the Guardian. A recent report concluded that the band's recent "#IWannaBeASpiceGirl" charity T-shirts were manufactured at a Bangladesh plant under allegedly "inhuman" working conditions.
The T-shirts were created in conjunction with a Comic Relief charity campaign meant to empower women and demand equality. But what the Guardian report has detailed indicates the working conditions, mainly for women laborers, are not even livable, let alone empowering.
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A Guardian investigation has found that Spice Girls T-shirts, sold to raise money for Comic Relief's "gender justice" campaign, were made by mostly female workers in a Bangladesh factory. The machinists were forced to work up to 16 hours a day and were verbally abused by managers when failing to hit targets. In a statement, Comic Relief said they were "shocked and concerned". Online retailer Represent, commissioned by the Spice Girls to make the T-shirts, said it would refund customers on request, calling the reported conditions at the factory “appalling and unacceptable.” The factory was employed to produce the T-shirts by Belgian brand Stanley/Stella, who said it was investigating the findings and "remained strongly committed to help this country and workers to improve their welfare." Photo: Comic Relief
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A woman whose name was changed to Salma for the interview recounted her experience working for the Interstoff Apparels factory, where workers are given targets of sewing up to 2,000 garments a day. If a worker does not meet this impossible goal, she would be the target of verbal abuse, Salma said. Many workers cannot handle the insults, and they quit.
“Many workers don’t want to do the overtime, sometimes they even cry when the management make them do overtime forcefully," said Salma. "There was a worker I knew who was pregnant and she was forced to do night duty on top of her regular hours and overtime."
Salma said one woman wasn't feeling well and was throwing up all day, but she was still forced to work late. Salma also said fainting is "pretty common," especially during the summer.
A spokesperson for the band said the group was "deeply shocked and appalled" by the Guardian's findings, and that they would fund an investigation into the factory's working conditions. The charity at the center of the story also said it was "shocked and concerned."
Represent, the online retailer selling the T-shirts, said it takes full responsibility for the crisis, but Interstoff has claimed the details in the report are not true. Both the band and the charity said they checked the sourcing of Represent, but that the online retailer had changed the manufacturer without their knowledge. The band said the retailer should donate the profits from the T-shirts to charitable causes intended to end these workplace injustices.
It was Belgian brand Stanley/Stella that operated the factory, and it is the latest case to demonstrate how vital it is to closely monitor every step of the apparel production process.
“The evidence coming out of this factory clearly shows the failure of auditing and current brand monitoring," Dominique Muller, the policy director at the campaign group Labour Behind the Label, told the Guardian. "Stanley/Stella claim to have monitored all their Bangladesh factories, and yet the evidence shows gross violations of labor laws and human rights. Brands must step up their game.”
The Guardian has a helpful graphic that details the production process for the Spice Girls' charity T-shirts.
We hope other brands learn from this jaw-dropping investigation, and that moving forward, celebrities and other big-name personalities become more involved in their apparel sourcing.