Government launches ethical fund for UK clothing industry
17th June 2009
The Government has launched a £3.5 million fund to try to tackle the ethical and sustainable problems associated with the UK clothing industry, which sources 90 per cent of its products from abroad.
The Responsible and Accountable Garment Sector (RAGS) fund is targeting UK clothing manufacturers and retailers that produce or source their garments in developing countries and want to rid the industry of its poor image in relation to unfair pay and forced labour.
The clothing industry employs over 20 million people worldwide, but most of those are employed in developing countries. Only 10 per cent of clothes sold in the UK are actually manufactured here.
RAGS is being run by the Department for International Development (DFID) as part of the Government’s wider UK Sustainable Clothing Action Plan, launched earlier this year.
UK clothing manufacturers of any size that want to make their business more ethical and sustainable when sourcing products from abroad will be able to bid for funding from RAGS via a Challenge Fund, which will run over the next three years.
One of the stated aims of the fund is to be support and encourage "ethical pioneers" in the clothing industry that have "the potential to drive change in the garment sector".
Speaking at the launch of RAGS yesterday, Trade and Development Minister Gareth Thomas said: "RAGS is a fun name but it carries a serious message. The garment sector has for too long been associated with abuse and exploitation of workers in developing countries […] This new initiative will help to make a real difference to how retailers in this country work with producers in developing countries."
RAGS is the first initiative of its kind from the DFID and comes four months after the launch of the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP) at London Fashion Week in February.
Backed by over 300 high street retailers, designers, textile manufacturers and the Government, SCAP aims to reduce the harmful lifecycle environmental and social impacts of clothing
and textiles – from design, to manufacture, to retail, to disposal.
Some of the big names that have so far signed up to the plan include Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Adili, Nike, Continental Clothing and Oxfam.