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Noémie, Newark on Trent
First steps towards ethical shoes
Discover the hidden face of the shoe industry, its unacceptably low salaries and dangerous chemical products.
Design the shoes of your dreams.
The mistakes of the shoe industry
A new pair of shoes every two months
Almost 23 billion shoes were made in 2015. This corresponds to more than three pairs of shoes per person at a global level. In Switzerland, people buy an average of six pairs of shoes a year. Old ones almost never get repaired. The “fast-fashion” model is now also relevant for the shoe industry. Nowadays people prefer to simply throw away a pair of worn-out shoes, and replace them with a new pair. This behaviour has serious social and ecological consequences.
Paid a pittance
Irrespective of where the shoes are manufactured, companies appear to be only concerned by the lowest possible production costs and shortest production times. And suppliers do not hesitate to outsource work. The further down the supply chain you go, the lower the salaries, and the worse the working conditions. In almost all countries where shoes are made, the shoe industry is one of the sectors with the lowest wages – and the wages paid are often unacceptably low. The income of those working in the shoe factories is far from enough to allow them to live dignified lives.
The chemicals, glue and cleaning products used in the shoe manufacturing industry may cause poisoning, respiratory problems and asthma. There are heavy loads to be carried, the work is monotonous, and the big machines used represent many different risks. However there is little or no training on these issues. Protective equipment is rarely available. Many female workers explain that they would not be able to work well or fast enough to meet their daily objectives if they had to wear masks or gloves.
Lack of transparency
The supply chains in the shoe industry are complex and lack transparency. Much of the work is done by sub-contractors, and it is hard to get clear information on the sector as a whole. All too often, the brands themselves do not even know where the different parts of their shoes are being made, or where they are being stitched.
In order to improve this situation, the connections between working conditions and the brands must be clarified and made transparent. In order to ensure that their rights are respected, workers in the factories should know the brands for whom they work. And consumers should be able to know where, and in what sort of conditions their shoes were made.
Discover the daily lot of the workers in the shoe and tanning industries. Learn what companies, states and private individuals can do to help improve working conditions in the shoe industry.