Why are you publishing wages?

Fashion has a dirty secret: the products we enjoy are often made by people – mostly women – who can’t even afford to meet their basic needs. That’s unacceptable. And the only way we can start to solve this problem is by being fully transparent about how we’re treating the lowest-paid workers. So we wanted to show people the good, bad, and ugly, so that together we can start to demand change.

We want to bring a new level of transparency and accountability to the retail manufacturing industry: one that guarantees women the full economic benefits of their employment, and that works to end generational poverty.


Why are lowest wages important?

Across industries, the people at the bottom are often the worst off. That’s why transparency must start with the lowest wages, because protecting workers starts with the most vulnerable. Average wages, labor costs, or even lowest-to-highest wage ratio statistics don’t give transparent information about how much the lowest-wage workers are actually making.

When consumers know the lowest wage, they can make an informed decision to protect the people making their clothes.


How are lowest wages different from a living wage, minimum wage or fair wage?

The lowest wage is the wage of the lowest-paid employee within a company.

A living wage is based on an estimate of the cost of living in a community or region based on typical expenses, taking into account the costs of food, medical, housing, transportation, taxes, and savings. It is the minimum hourly wage required to meet someone’s basic needs in order to live above the poverty line. We believe all manufacturers should be striving to provide a living wage as their lowest wage (at a minimum).

The minimum wage is the legal minimum hourly wage employers are required to pay employees. Most of the time, the minimum wage is not enough for someone to meet their basic needs. For example, in Nashville, TN, the minimum wage is $7.25/hour and the living wage is $11.24/hour for a single adult. That’s over a 55% differential.

A fair wage, while by definition is intended to be reasonable for the type of work done, is just too subjective.


Why will you be focusing on women’s wages – does that really provide an accurate picture?

Yes, for two reasons. First, women are concentrated in the lowest-paid and least-secure jobs, so their wages indicate how we’re protecting the most vulnerable workers. Second, the end to generational poverty starts with women’s wages.

Simply put, when a woman can secure a job that pays a living wage, she is able to provide for her family, allowing her children to go to school instead of work. Empowered with an education, her children are able to go after higher-paying work and are less likely to need or rely on charity, breaking generational cycles of poverty.

The fashion industry employs 60 million people globally, and it’s estimated that 75% are women. In addition, studies show that for every dollar a woman earns, she invests 80 cents in her family. Men, on the other hand, invest around 30 cents in their family. Given that statistic, it could be said the best way to break cycles of poverty in families is by paying women. We believe the fashion industry is a female-oriented industry where we can have immediate impact.


How will I know if the wages you share allow a woman’s basic needs to be met?

A living wage is notoriously difficult to calculate. We have worked with experts to determine a formula which includes: healthy groceries, water, housing, education, healthcare, transport, clothing and other essential needs, including savings for unexpected events. The MIT Living Wage Calculator is the leading resource for determining living wage.


What is your stance on equal pay?

We wholeheartedly support equal pay, which, from our perspective, is a truly global issue. All of the factories we work with must pay men and women the same wage for the same work.


Why are living wages so important?

Living wages are key to lifting people and families out of poverty. It is the minimum required to meet someone’s basic needs, which is what ends cycles of poverty and dependence on government assistance, minimizes employee turnover, maximizes productivity, increases employee retention, and leads to better overall health and education for each generation. It’s also the right thing to do.

Article 23(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) declares a living wage to be a human right, stating “Everyone who works has the right to just and favorable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity...”


How are you able to publish your wages?

ACCOUNTABLE rigorously audits the employment practices of manufacturers while identifying and correcting participant factories’ policies and procedures based on the findings. All of ABLE’s manufacturers must go through the ACCOUNTABLE process to work with us. Wages are one of the three key areas of focus for us, along with equality and safety. To learn more about ACCOUNTABLE and see our audits, visit https://www.livefashionable.com/pages/accountable.


What about measuring your environmental impact?

We have created an environmental assessment as well as our social impact assessment. However, we’re focusing on the social impact assessment first because we found that the greater lack in the marketplace was an audit that focused on women’s equality, safety and wages. We will eventually launch the environmental part of our audit, but do not currently have a timeline. Until that date, we will use other environmental audits.  


Who completes the accountABLE audits? And are they credentialed, trustworthy sources?

We have hired third-party auditors to create and complete our accountABLE assessments. They are supply chain management auditors with a specialty in the intersection of brand and operational innovation. They have experience working for a diverse range of global companies from Fortune 100 to venture-backed startups, helping them adopt operational excellence in an accelerating landscape.


What are you measuring in your audits?

Our audits evaluate our partners on equality, safety and wages with a particular emphasis on women in the workplace.


Do you audit all your partners?

Yes, we have either completed or are in progress of auditing all our partners. Moving forward, since we have created this audit platform recently, it will now be the new on-boarding audit for new manufacturers.  


How long does the audit take and how often do you perform audits on your partners?

The full ACCOUNTABLE audit takes 4-6 months, including the 90-day corrective action period. We perform audits annually.


What do you do if you find a vendor isn’t meeting your standards?

After completing the audit, we review each partner’s results and identify areas of improvement and create a corrective action plan. We give the partner 3 months to complete a majority of the committed actions, and sometimes allow for a 6-month grace period on a case-by-case basis.  


Have any other brands gone through the ACCOUNTABLE audit?

ACCOUNTABLE is in the process of receiving 501(c)3 status. After it is confirmed, other companies will be able to utilize this auditing system to evaluate their supply chains. It is important to us that ACCOUNTABLE is operated as a 3rd party entity, ensuring its neutrality.


Are other countries going to be released?

Yes, absolutely. In August 2018 we launched our first ACCOUNTABLE report with the release of our Nashville Headquarters audit. Further factory audits from our manufacturing partners will be released starting with Ethiopia in 2019, and Mexico, Peru, and Brazil to follow.


Does ABLE own its manufacturing?

Jewelry production is the only manufacturing we own. That’s intentional. By partnering with local entrepreneurs around the world, we’re not only supporting them, but we’re also able to have a greater impact beyond our own scale. When we identify areas of workplace improvement, all the employees of that partner benefit - regardless if they’re working on an ABLE garment or another brand’s.