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The Clothing & Textile Industry

The Problem

The Link

The global clothing and textile industry is a multitrillion dollar industry. And each year, countless numbers of individuals suffer and die for the production of clothing, accessories, and other textiles. Modern slavery—forced labor—is a problem across multiple continents.

Children, animals, and migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to exploitation in the industry.

The clothing and textile industry exploits children at every stage of production, including picking cotton and other fibers, spinning yarn, sewing, and tanning leather.

Leather, wool, fur, and other industries that use animals for their skin, fur, and feathers contribute to significant physical and mental suffering among animals and workers. Within these industries, animals are deprived of normal lives, and they endure tremendous cruelty.

Migrant workers are at particular risk for labor rights violations including practices such as wage theft.

Disease Risk

The use of animals in clothing and textile production fuels the risk for infectious diseases that are passed from animals to humans.

Those who work in or live near facilities that produce clothing and textiles such as leather also suffer disproportionately from environmental health hazards, including certain forms of cancer.

Children are particularly vulnerable to these toxic chemicals, which can cause symptoms and diseases that range from skin changes to multi-organ failure.

The Climate Crisis and Environmental Injustice

Corporations that use animals for leather production fuel greenhouse gas emissions, water scarcity and pollution, solid waste production, and indiscriminate land use. The global leather industry is a major driver of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, which is one of the primary drivers of the climate crisis.

People living in economically impoverished areas worldwide experience these consequences most acutely.

We can implement programs and policies that value social and environmental justice above corporate profits.

The Promise

When the World Is a Phoenix Zone

Clothing and shelter are basic needs for human beings. The current fiber production system, however, produces violence toward children and animals and takes advantage of the economic vulnerability of many women. It does not need to be this way. We envision the world’s human population clothed from sustainable, plant-derived fibers and sheltered through ecologically regenerative means, supported by governments that implement programs and policies that reward ethical human ingenuity.

By respecting the rights of all humans to adequate shelter and clothing and to nontoxic means of meeting their individual, family, and community needs, and by respecting the rights of animals to be free from human use and abuse, we can significantly reduce the burden of disease in humans resulting from toxic exposures at work and at home, and we can remove conditions that stand in the way of natural systems rebalancing themselves. Humans can do this; with your help, this vision can become a reality.

Our Response Toward Effective Solutions

Research and Analysis

Currently, there are many efforts to draw attention to the problems with the clothing and textile industry. However, many of these efforts focus on risk mitigation and other partial solutions, rather than on a clear vision that prioritizes rights and health above profit.

Through outreach, and research and analysis, we work to better understand the scope of the problem and potential solutions, including how to move from exploitative agricultural and production systems to compassionate solutions.

Education, Advocacy, Coalition Building, and Policy and Practice Change

Working in partnership with others, we have identified international, national, and regional opportunities to shift policies and practices relevant to producing clothing, accessories, and other textiles. We provide a platform to identify and share scalable solutions that can leverage shifts in corporate decisions and policy, and we illuminate the effects of trade agreements and related economic drivers so that we can better advocate for holistic, effective change that benefits both people and animals.

As part of our commitment to coalition building, we partner with organizations like Impact Fashion, a leading organization in sustainable, cruelty-free fashion. These partnerships highlight and promote a positive, vegan, solutions-oriented approach to the many ethical challenges—ranging from child labor and modern slavery to animal suffering—in the clothing industry.

We are also working with other organizations, leaders, and activists to advance public policy that would end certain forms of child and animal exploitation such as international trafficking. Additionally, we work to expand and enforce legal rights for the most vulnerable, including children and animals. For example, by 2023, we aim to see US ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The US is the only member state of the United Nations that has not yet ratified the Convention. We believe that public opinion and political will are shifting and that there are real opportunities to advance this agenda. Please join us.

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