The Guide > Clothing > Outdoor & Sports > Activewear
Activewear
Conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other single crop. (A global spend of $2.6 billion each year). This is more than 10 per cent of the world's pesticides and nearly 25 per cent of the world's insecticides. Many of these are the most hazardous pesticides on the market including aldicarb, phorate, methamidophos and endosulfan. These pesticides can poison farm workers, drift into neighboring communities, contaminate ground and surface water and kill beneficial insects and soil micro-organisms.
  • Look for organic cotton products from brands like Certton, Blessed Earth, Organic Embrace and Gaia Organic.
In Australia, the use of home-based outworkers in the cut make and trim stage of production is common. The Textile Clothing and Footwear Union of Australia estimate that 50-70% of clothing made in Australia is outsourced, usually to migrant women working at home or in backyard sweatshops.

Long supply chains mean designers and clothing labels contract work out to factories, who subcontract work out to other factories, backyard sweatshops or outworkers. Often outworkers receive payment and conditions significantly below their award and statutory entitlements. Outworkers are almost always paid in piece rates, usually equating to $5-8 an hour, but sometimes as little as $3 an hour. The low rates of pay that outworkers receive, combined with routinely short deadlines, results in many outworkers having to work extremely long hours, sometimes around the clock, or 7 days a week.
  • Check out the Issues section of our website for more about outworkers in Australia ethical.org.au/issues
  • Support Ethical Clothing Australia accredited businesses who have taken practical steps to keep their Australian-based supply chains transparent and ensure that they and any sub-contractors are compliant with the relevant Australian laws. Ethical Clothing Australia
There is little transparency as to which clothing items are made by workers who are paid fairly and which clothes are made in sweatshop conditions. Modern-day slavery, which currently affects more than 30 million people, is used throughout the production of many clothing products sold on Australian shelves.

WORKING HOURS. Long working hours and forced overtime are a major concern among garment workers. Factory managers typically push employees to work between 10 and 12 hours, sometimes 16 to 18 hours a day. A seven-day working week is becoming the norm during the peak season, particularly in China, despite limits placed by the law.

WAGES. The majority of workers in the global fashion industry, rarely earn more than two dollars a day. Many have to work excessive hours for this meagre amount and struggle to properly feed, clothe and educate their families. The problem is complicated further when the millions of piece- rate workers and homeworkers within the industry are considered. When workers are paid by the number of garments they produce, rather than the number of hours they work, it becomes near-impossible to earn a living wage during a working week.

Women in El Salvador are paid just 29 cents for each $140 Nike NBA jersey they sew. To pay them a living wage, they would earn 58 cents per shirts, 4/10ths of one percent of the retail cost of the shirt.
  • Check out the Issues section of our website for more about labour exploitation in the apparel sector ethical.org.au/issues
  • See the Simple Plan and MTV EXIT video for 'This Song Saved My Life' MTVexit
  • See 'Behind the Swoosh' documentary and more about the fight against Nike's sweatshops at www.teamsweat.org Behind the Swoosh
There is little or no transparency on the conditions behind common processes in most supply chains in the clothing industry. Baptist World Aid and Not For Sale's 2013 document, The Australian Fashion Report, identified that out of 128 clothing brands, 61% of companies do not know where their garments are manufactured; 76% not know where their garments are weaved, knitted and dyed; and 93% do not know where their cotton is sourced from.

[Please note the ratings in our guide indicate praises or criticisms in one or more issue areas in the ownership tree, but not necessarily the area of labour conditions. For many companies we don't have any information about the conditions their clothes are made under. We don't automatically allocate criticisms to companies for this, even though it is quite likely the company is sourcing from overseas sweatshops.]
  • See the Clothing: Alternatives table on our website for alternative retailers and brands with positive features such as Ethical Clothing Australia accreditation, Fairtrade certification, and use of sustainable materials. Alternatives
  • See Ethical Clothing Australia's list of accredited brands here ECA
Uzbekistan is one of the world's largest exprters of cotton. For decades, Uzbekistan has forced adults and children as young as 10 to pick cotton under appalling conditions each harvest season. The human rights concerns surrounding Uzbek cotton production has lead to a 'call for a boycott' of Uzbek cotton from Uzbek and international activists. Around 70 per cent of Uzbekistan cotton is sold to Bangladesh and China, where it is turned into fabric to be used in clothes, sheets and other cotton products to be sold into countries such as Australia.

There are 14 countries where cotton is produced using child labour. Child workers in the cottonseed industry are often in a state of debt bondage and work at least nine hours a day. Pesticides used during production cause health problems for the children and they report experiencing headaches, convulsions and respiratory problems. The long-term effects of exposure to toxic chemicals have not been measured.
  • Check out the Issues section of our website for more about child labour in cotton production ethical.org.au/issues
  • Watch White Gold - the true cost of cotton (video) White Gold
Features: Ethical Clothing Australia accredited, Australian made and owned
Vertically integrated family-owned Australian business. All of their garments are made in-house in their own factory in Queensland. Accredited by Ethical Clothing Australia.
Manufacturer: Merino Country
Find farmers' markets, food coops, farm gate products at Local Harvest
Brand
Company
Owned
Rating
Company Ratings
A Praises, no criticism
B Some praise, no criticism
? No rating
C Praises, some criticism
D Criticism, some praise
F Criticisms
Note: Ratings are based on company record, including parent companies. They are not a comment on the product itself.
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