Although legislative measures are strengthening sustainability efforts as we approach 2023, the grim economic picture affects businesses' investments in environmental improvements as well as pay stability and personal protection for the garment industry's primarily female workforce.
Labor attorneys are already warning of an increase in gender-based violence and harassment of workers by (typically male) bosses. They warn that pressure to reduce labor costs and reach production objectives in the shortest amount of time may result in longer working hours, more verbal and physical abuse, and more fragile employment contracts, with pregnant women employees particularly vulnerable to termination.
"This is a scenario where manufacturers are under pressure," said Thulsi Narayanasamy, the Worker Rights Consortium's head of international advocacy. "Essentially, it implies that the amount of violence for women is rising, and companies are simply refusing to accept responsibility for the clear relationship between their sourcing practices and women's experiences in factories."
Aside from the present economic slowdown, fashion supply chains are facing broader, longer-term difficulties in the shape of climate change. Extreme weather events continue to endanger raw material production and destabilize operations further down the supply chain, making it vital for brands to take a proactive approach to risk mitigation and constructing more robust supply chains in the coming year.
"All of these social sustainability concerns that were not previously deemed crucial are now becoming business-critical issues," Niemtzow explained. "This means that businesses must increase their efforts to ensure that they have a sound basis in terms of human rights due diligence and scenario planning."