ILR School in partnership with Schroders
- Analysis by Cornell University's Global Labor Institute and Schroders finds extreme heat and flooding are threatening key apparel production hubs
- Four countries vital for fashion production risk losing $65 billion in export earnings and 1 million potential jobs by 2030
- Karachi, Colombo, Managua, Mauritius, and Dhaka identified as most climate-vulnerable production centers
- Investors say adaptation measures aren't factored into risk plans because the industry is focused on mitigation.
- Analysis calls for climate adaptation finance that redistributes costs and risks away from apparel workers
Read our executive summary for a high-level overview of the issues we address in these reports.
Jason Judd, Angus Bauer, Sarosh Kuruvilla and Stephanie Williams
Angus Bauer, Stephanie Williams, Jason Judd and Sarosh Kuruvilla
Climate breakdown effects for workers
GLI summary of Report 1 for union and labor rights leaders
In these reports from Cornell University Global Labor Institute and Schroders – a global investment firm – our top question is: "What are the risks for apparel workers from climate change and how much economic damage will it do?"
To answer this, we compare estimates for future temperatures and flooding in 30 apparel production centers around the world. Second, we look closely at the impacts for apparel workers in four countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan and Vietnam. And we look at how climate breakdown is already affecting garment workers. Then we compare laws and regulations about heat, sick leave, and social protections in these four countries. Finally, we suggest changes that unions, employers, governments, apparel buyers and investors should make now to protect workers and apparel manufacturing from high heat and intense floods.
The Threat of Extreme Heat
Extreme heat and flooding are threatening key apparel hubs and will put over $65 billion worth of export earnings at risk across four key production centers by 2030.
That’s according to new research by Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute (GLI) and global asset management firm Schroders about the economic impact of climate breakdown--specifically, extreme heat and flooding--on apparel manufacturers and workers, brands and retailers, and investors.
Researchers looked at the climate-vulnerable apparel industries in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Pakistan and Vietnam, which collectively represent 18% of global apparel exports, house approximately 10,000 apparel and footwear factories and employ 10.6 million workers.
Researchers analysed future heat and flooding levels for these four countries in order to estimate industry-level outcomes for 2030 and 2050 under ‘climate adaptive’ and ‘high heat and flooding’ scenarios. Finally, the team estimated physical climate risks and costs for six leading apparel brands and calculated possible return on investment for climate adaptation measures.
Flooding and extreme heat pose significant risk to every constituency in global apparel production - workers, manufacturers, regulators, investor and brands themselves.
– Jason Judd, Executive Director, Global Labor Institute
These issues are material risks for brands, retailers and their investors, but adaptation is not being factored into risk planning because the industry and regulators are focused on mitigation measures.
– Angus Bauer, Head of Sustainable Investment Research at Schroders