A new wave of consumers and social media activists are demanding accountability and meaningful change in the global fashion industry. Employing targeted and sophisticated social media savvy tactics, the #PayUp campaign calls on Instagram and Twitter users to comment on brand’s social media pages, sign petitions and demand long-lasting change.
According to non-profit Support Garment Workers, which is co-orchestrating the #PayUp campaign, £2.4bn worth of completed and in-process orders for garments, footwear and accessories have been cancelled or put on hold as a result of COVID-19 in Bangladesh alone.
As a result, almost 75 million garment workers worldwide have not been paid, forcing workers into destitution. While workers in Bangladesh are among the most affected, this is a global phenomenon affecting millions of workers from Cambodia to El Salvador.
In many of these countries, garment workers and suppliers are afraid of speaking out against brands, so Remake, another non-profit leading the campaign, acts as a go-between. It receives Instagram DMs from suppliers and works with in-country reporting bodies to verify claims. It then shares on social media which brands are not paying and the community in turn tags the brands in question and calls them out online.
Consumers demand accountability now more than ever
Today’s consumers are hyper-discerning and critical, particularly millennial and Gen Z shoppers, who are choosing to vote with their wallets. They are more engaged and more informed than ever before and can easily find the information they need to support brands that align with their values and abandon those who don’t.
Social media has reshaped how consumers interact with brands and platforms like Twitter and Instagram are at the forefront of this movement of democratising and publicising grievances with fashion brands. Platforms also have the power to mobilise a lot of people very quickly, and a lot of brands depend on advertising that comes through social media to generate sales. Therefore, brands really don’t want a negative message to go viral.
#PayUp is using influencers for amplification and asking them to lead the calls to apply pressure on brands. Nabela Noor’s connections as an entrepreneur and beauty influencer gave her instant clout with beauty brands, while Remake’s 400 ambassadors across 33 countries have prompted four million people to respond on Instagram alone. Campaigners say it is important to coordinate call-outs in a unified way to reach brands meaningfully.
Since launching, the #PayUp campaign has unlocked an estimated $1 billion for suppliers in Bangladesh and $15 billion globally with 18 brands agreeing to pay for back orders. To be removed from the #PayUp petition, brands must promise to pay suppliers for all orders that were cancelled or paused as a result of COVID-19. They must also agree to pay for cancelled and in-production orders in full without asking suppliers for discounts or extending payment terms unless financing options can be provided.