Consumers are using their voices on social media to push brands to become more ethically responsible.
A new wave of 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, mostly women, 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 with its community on Instagram 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 organisations depend on advertising that comes through social media for a lot of their income. Therefore, brands really don’t want a negative message to go viral online.
#PayUp is using influencers for amplification and asking them to lead the calls to apply pressure on brands. Bangladeshi American Nabela Noor’s connections as an entrepreneur and beauty influencer gave her instant clout with beauty brands. Also weighing in was fashion influencer Sharifa Easmin, 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. “On the one hand, the ‘democratising’ of public communication lends itself to social activism, as it can allow people to easily find and join forces with others who share their views.
Until last week, #PayUp campaigning in the UK was predominantly taking place online. But with lockdown restrictions easing, activists are planning to take their protests to the streets. Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists are gathering on London’s Oxford Street this week to urge fast fashion brands to ‘PayUp and support their suppliers overseas.
The protests orchestrated by XR’s Fashion Action and Textiles Rebellion arms will take aim at brands accused of either failing to pay for orders, cancelling orders at short-notice in breach of contract terms, or pushing for significant discounts from suppliers. Among this cohort are the likes of Arcadia Group, owner of Topshop and Miss Selfridge; Urban Outfitters Group, which also owns Free People and Anthropologie; Primark, GAP and Levi Strauss.
Since launching the campaign, 18 brands have now agreed to pay for back orders. Furthermore, it is estimated that the #PayUp campaign has unlocked an estimated $1 billion for suppliers in Bangladesh and $15 billion globally.
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. Furthermore, brands must agree to pay for these cancelled and in-production orders in full without asking suppliers for discounts and in a timely manner – without extending payment terms unless financing options can be provided.
Show your support by signing the #PayUp Petition today or making a donation.