Interview on inclusion and diversity in the textile industry


Interview on inclusion and diversity in the textile industry

In an interview with the Asia Garment Hub, Judith Kunert and Luisa Hans talk about the opportunities and challenges of making the textile sector more inclusive.

Companies still face major challenges in meeting their corporate due diligence obligations with regard to discrimination, gender-based violence and harassment in the workplace. These barriers make it difficult for workers to participate equally in the labour market. To help companies make working conditions more inclusive, the Guide on Inclusion in Textile Supply Chains for the Apparel and Textile Sector was published in 2021. It shows how companies and employees alike can benefit from inclusive working conditions and how inclusion can be implemented. 

Judith Kunert, who works on gender and inclusion in the Textile Partnership, and Luisa Hans from the International Association of the Natural Textile Industry (IVN) helped develop the guide. In an interview with Asia Garment Hub, they talk about ways to make the textile sector more inclusive.

Currently, people with disabilities are disadvantaged by the current working conditions in textile factories, which are mostly located in low-wage countries and whose social standards are inadequate. People with disabilities are not only exposed to a higher work risk, but also have difficulties earning the minimum wage, which is usually linked to the number of pieces produced. Individual abilities and potentials are often overlooked and perceived as negative due to existing prejudices.

However, research shows that inclusion and protection against discrimination have an overall positive impact on the working environment and increase social skills, innovation and productivity of employees. So everyone benefits from diversity.

At the same time, inclusion and diversity have to be rethought in the long term and prejudices have to be dismantled in order to give workers perspectives. Luisa Hans on this: "Inclusion does not simply mean that persons with disabilities will be integrated but rather society affirming all talents and capabilities."

Inclusion is a long-term process and requires the constant sensibilisation of superiors and employees. An important step is to give the topic more attention and to promote mutual exchange with those affected. Especially with regard to gender-based violence, the "Me-Too" debate has contributed enormously to putting gender issues and women's rights on the international agenda. There is also a lot of potential in the area of discrimination against people with disabilities and diversity.

Nevertheless, there are already positive developments within the fashion industry, which is slowly addressing the issue. Large fashion companies are increasingly developing inclusive approaches. This would raise questions about inclusion in their own operations and supply chains. Therefore, they need to take action to address the issue.

To raise awareness and interest in the topic, guidelines, publications and public interviews are a good first step. But also exchanges with experts and organisations representing people with disabilities can help to analyse levers and identify physical and other barriers. They can also raise awareness of one's own prejudices and stereotypes.

You can find the full interview here: Disability inclusion: Companies should recognise that diversity is a strength and a reputation enhancer — Asia Garment Hub.