The textile and garment supply chain is estimated to be responsible for up to eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions and twenty per cent of waste-water discharge. Intense use of water resources and chemicals, insufficient treatment of waste-water, radiant heat, and textile waste and microfibre shedding are affecting not only the environment but also the sector’s workers.
International and local laws set to help meet the goals of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) have sensitized constituents in the garment industry to the importance of environmental sustainability. Garment sector businesses are also proactively adopting standards promoted by a growing number of investors, brands and retailers across the supply chain.
Climate change and extreme climate phenomena are a global threat that is developing particularly rapidly in the countries where Better Work operates. For example, rising sea levels pose serious dangers across nations in South and South-East Asia, like Bangladesh, Indonesia and Viet Nam.
In order to tackle pressing environmental challenges, governments and businesses need to transition towards greener, resilient and climate neutral economies. In order for this transition to be just, the greening of the economy must be done in a fair and inclusive way, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind.
Better Work is in a unique position to address the human impacts of the crisis, which can also severely impact productivity, generating income loss and heightened poverty risks for workers, with women workers being particularly vulnerable.
Environmental sustainability is a new focus area for Better Work’s strategy. We will work with dedicated ILO units to support national constituents to understand and manage the labour implications of a just transition to environmental sustainability and circularity. We will also provide data, evidence and advice on how to manage risks and opportunities to advance decent work and increase competitiveness.
For example, Better Work will work with other ILO units and key partners to focus on the skills required to transition to greener production, leveraging energy and resource efficiency-based contributions to productivity. Better Work will also establish stronger social dialogue and workplace cooperation between managers and workers and their representatives to identify and mitigate the human impact of environmental issues.
Within this new operational area of activity, the promotion of workers’ well-being and factory competitiveness remain our key goals. Using enterprise and industry-wide approaches, Better Work will support partnerships and interventions to address the negative environmental impacts of the apparel industry on both employers and workers.
Better Work’s strong relationships with brands and tripartite constituents will be leveraged to raise the just transition agenda with the aim of incorporating enabling policies at the factory, sector and national levels, eventually building the necessary coalition between buyers, policy makers and workers to bring about sustainable change.
Better Work five-year strategy (2022-27) embraces innovation around a set of strategic priorities to adapt to the needs of the garment and footwear industry around the world.