Last April, the Rana Plaza collapse brought home the appalling working conditions of many of those who make our clothes.   Despite global outrage about the numbers of dead and injured, and heated discussions about improvement, too many garment workers continue to work for extremely low pay and in unsafe conditions. (See for example this Human Rights Watch update).

However, a few clothing manufacturers have upped their game since some meaningfully, others less so. 

For teachers, this is a topic well worth exploring.  It's an opportunity to discuss how multi-nationals in developing countries have huge power to impact working conditions and environmental standards.  

This anniversary week has seen the release of some great interactive materials which schools could use to explore this further with older students.

Firstly, The Guardian has created a wonderfully made (but visually disturbing) interactive journey called "The shirt on your back: the human cost of the Bangladeshi garment industry".

There is also this short documentary by  photojournalist, Ismail Ferdous, and Nathan Fitch. They have started the Cost of Fashion campaign to help bring fair compensation to victims of the Rana Plaza collapse and their families, and to encourage apparel companies to support safe working conditions. 

Last but not least, it is an interesting exercise to help students work out which brands have ensured that they have cleaner supply chains.  

Unfortunately there is no list of perfect companies - but some are doing better than others.  

It is hoped that through social media, reputable NGOs will increasingly find cost-effective ways to shed light onto this.  

The Clean Clothes Campaign has compiled this list to help students engage in the process of making their own assessments.

The hope is that if young people learn how to distinguish genuine improvement from rhetoric (admittedly easier said than done) and then buy more ethically produced clothing, this will encourage companies to continue any positive efforts they have made and encourage other less ethically-motivated manufacturers to follow suit.

Ideally we'll end up with gains all round -  improved working conditions, more environmentally sustainable business practices, and better quality, longer lasting clothes too. 

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