The clothing industry and human rights violations : consumption, individuals and the role of big players

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Corradini, Julia
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The Clothing Industry and Human Rights Violations- Consumption, Individuals and the Role of Big Players The collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka on the 24th of April 2014, that led to the death of more than 1.100 workers and many more injured, is a crucial example of connection between the modern clothing business and human rights violations. Security shortcuts, non/late payment, excessive working hours, violence and abuse are frequently happening in a lot of factories and supply chains in developing countries and are the result of the Fast-Fashion Business model that emerged in the last decades. A business model where production costs tried to be kept as low as possible in order to offer more, cheaper and faster goods to the consumer in western society. The mass production of goods led to the emergence of consumerism and to the fact individuals consuming and demanding more. A cycle of endless production and consumption developed in a capitalist economic system and society. As the Guiding Principles of Business and Human Rights state, it is the duty of states to protect individuals from business violations, but in practice states are often powerless or not willing enough to take effective steps. In addition businesses often fail to respect human rights and to provide individuals with an effective remedy, since they are not legally bound by law to do so. Since much research is done about the responsibility of states and businesses, the individual consumer is often left behind, although it is clear that production and consumption goes hand in hand. The thesis therefore is going to answer the research question: What power does the individual have to prevent human rights violations in the clothing industry by its consumption and what can be done by the two big players, governments and businesses, to increase the power of the individual? The results show that the individual can be seen as a responsible actor too and not only as a victim of the industry. Consumers have impacts on the market and its interlinked human rights violations with their decision-, investigation-, communication-, and networking power and can make a change while making a change in consumption. To foster this, consumers need the support from Governments and Businesses, since they have an important role too in increasing the power of the individual within consumption. They can take actions to help him/her changing habits and supporting a more sustainable consumption. Only when all actors take responsibility, the industry with its resulting human rights violations can be changed. Key words: Clothing Industry, Human Rights Violations, Consumption, Individual Responsibility, Business and Human Rights
Second semester University: National University of Ireland, Galway
business ethics, corporate responsibility, labour exploitation, individual responsibility, human rights violations