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AMSTERDAM – A group of global institutional investors with combined assets of more than €725bn have called for fairer wages in textile supply chains. The investors have now launched an initiative which is also calling for a ban on child labour and excessive overtime. The move, the first of its kind to see investors pressing hard for serious social reform in textile supply chains, could potentially be decisive in turning the needle on such issues.

The Dutch institutional investors, which have combined assets of €725bn, have established the Platform Living Wage Financials (PLWF) initiative which is campaigning for fair wages in the textile sector in the developing world. The investors include asset managers MN, Kempen, Achmea IM, NN IP and Robeco. The initiative is also calling for textile manufacturers to increase the salaries of staff in clothing factories to a ‘living wage’.

“International organisations and [non-governmental organisations] have been advocating fair pay in the sector for years, but most multinationals pay labourers in poor countries the minimum wage, which is often much lower,” according to Karlijn van Lierop, head of sustainability at MN.

Van Lierop argued that textile firms would be more likely to implement wage increases if investors raised the issue, adding that the platform expected manufacturers to provide for better wages at their suppliers as well as their own factories.

The platform has engaged with 27 textile firms initially, to find out whether they have a policy in place to improve wages in poor countries.

Added a press note from MN: “Through the collaboration, we aim to ensure that garment and footwear brands in our investment portfolio have adequate processes and policies in place to enable the payment of living wage in their global supply chains. Over time, the companies should also show adequate progress on the way toward living wage implementation. MN works with 14 large listed garment and footwear brands, and the PLWF as a whole has an even broader reach. By guiding and assessing the companies to determine which companies have been leading on the issue and which need to do more, we aim to motivate the ‘laggards’ to follow their better-performing peers.”

Much more in this story in our next printed magazine.

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