Tell us who made our shoes! Big brands wake up to citizens’ demands for better working conditions and transparency
13,606 people have called for European shoe brands to Step Up and tell us who made our shoes, and to stop endangering the lives of the people who make them.
The petition was handed to 26 brands across Europe on behalf of thousands of citizens who want to know that their shoes are made by people who do not risk their lives when they go to work each day.
24 billion shoes are produced every year – that’s three pairs for every person on the planet. 87% of shoes are made in Asia, where millions of women homeworkers stitch shoes for our high street stores but endure extremely low wages, health problems and insecure work. In leather tanneries, the use of toxic chemicals and dyes expose workers to different toxic substances like sulphuric acid, formic acid or hexavalent chromium. Depending on the exposure route hexavalent chromium can cause asthma, eczema and cancer. When it transfers to waste water it causes harmful pollution to the environment and to those living and working nearby.
Increasing demand from Europe, and competition between brands to provide the cheapest, fastest products, means shoe workers in Asia and Eastern Europe are under pressure to produce more and more, often working unpaid overtime in factories and facing dismissal or intimidation if their try to speak up for their rights. These poor working conditions are hidden from us because most brands keep their supply chains a secret.
But now citizens across Europe are waking up to these problems, and want to know that their shoes are not harming people or the environment. Thousands of people are calling on big brands to publish information about where their shoes are made, to stop using toxic chemicals in the production process and to provide living wages and decent working conditions.
In Germany the petition was handed to Deichmann, who said they will work on improving the situation for workers in their supply chain. In Poland the largest shoe company in the country, CCC, received the petition. CCC said they will now take steps to monitor their supply chain and engage in dialogue with workers and civil society organisations. In Italy, the 13,606 names were handed to luxury brand Prada, who have so far been unresponsive to the demands for transparency. In Spain the petition has been handed to Camper who have recently begun to publish some information about their suppliers. In the UK, the petition was handed to 11 brands, including Schuh who said they are open to recommendations on how to improve.
The growing movement for transparency cannot be ignored. A parallel petition calling on five global garment and shoe brands to be more transparent has received over 70,000 signatures. As a result of public pressure, major brands have this year committed to publishing supplier information including Clarks in the UK. Many brands are still not keen to talk about working conditions, and there is still a long way to go until workers in the shoe industry get a fair deal. But it’s promising that some big brands are now waking up and see that the only way forward is to listen to customers concerns, and workers’ needs, and show they are willing to be held accountable. We will continue to work with shoe brands to improve supply chain transparency and working conditions, to stop workers risking their lives for poverty wages every day to make our shoes.
The Change Your Shoes coalition presented the petition to MEPs in Brussels on 20 November, demonstrating that there is public pressure for change in the shoe industry, and calling on the EU to make it mandatory for companies to disclose the names and addresses of their suppliers.
The Change Your Shoes project is a coalition of 18 organisations across Europe and Asia and is funded by the European Commission. Change Your Shoes believes that workers in the shoe supply chain have a right to a living wage and to safe working conditions, and that consumers have a right to safe products and transparency in the production of their shoes.
The Step Up petition calls on shoe brands to:
Publish the names and addresses of all their suppliers
Report on progress in moving away from dangerous chemicals
Show that they are respecting the human rights of the people who make their shoes, ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions.