Nashville-based fashion brand ABLE is hoping to make a big splash in the fashion arena, and it’s not for their fabulous leather bags or super cute jeans … or even their comfy and stylish mules. No, their newest announcement has nothing to do with their fall collection and everything to do with fashion’s impact on the world around them. With transparency leading the way, ABLE’s CEO, Barrett Ward, developed a new way to audit the fashion industry, one brand at a time, with three main areas of focus: safety, equity in pay and living wages. It’s called the ACCOUNTABLE Report. As Ward explains, it all starts with each brand publishing the wages of their lowest-paid employees and showing how that competes with a living wage for the area. This is drastically different than a company publishing their average salary or average hourly rate as it gets to the heart of the bottom rung of a company. Are they paying a living wage? Are their factories safe? Are they paying males and females equitably?
Ward gives the example of a $10 shirt. If a woman making the shirt across the world needs to work 16 hour days, six days a week, and she still can’t afford basic healthcare, then something is out of whack. And, with this new audit system and labeling, ABLE is helping to change this cycle.
Where does the cycle currently begin? It begins with factory workers being paid beneath a living wage. From here, families can not afford to access healthcare or education. Then, nonprofits step in to help with healthcare and school uniforms, and the same companies who aren’t paying a living wage then support those nonprofits. What if the companies simply paid a living wage on the front end? In fact, the United Nations just launched the Ethical Fashion Initiative with the tagline “Not Charity, Just Work” to help further raise awareness of the need for living wages in the fashion industry. The ACCOUNTABLE Report works hand in hand with such initiatives and provides an audit at a level of transparency that up until now did not exist.
An ACCOUNTABLE Report includes a short summary that looks very much like a nutritional label. Thus, it’s easy for consumers to navigate which brands they can feel good wearing, promoting and purchasing.
Fashion’s dirty little secret is out in the open now:
“… the products we enjoy are most often made by women who can’t meet the basic needs of themselves or their children. And that is unacceptable. So we’ll be the first company that we know of to publish our wages, but what we really want is for everyone to join us.
That way, you’ll have the information you need to protect the people making your products.
Our dream is that in 10 years or sooner, publishing wages will be as common as a nutritional facts label on your food.” – ABLE
Find out more about this movement and how it can impact the world. It really can, and we’re excited to see this take off. We’ve all been “sold” on more is better. But, “more” often has consequences on our environment and on the women workers of this world. “More” often means cheap labor and cutting safety corners. We need entry-level jobs. But, as consumers, would you pay a little more for a t-shirt that you knew was being made in a safe factory by women being paid a living wage? That’s the change ABLE is hoping you, the consumer, will demand.