David Jones and Best & Less are among the major fashion brands that have committed to helping protect the living wages of workers who make their clothes.
The Australian retail chains have published pledges to “ringfence” labour costs in price negotiations with their international suppliers.
Ringfencing means that factories which create the garments cannot offer retailers a better price by lowering their workers’ pay beneath a living wage.
Anti-poverty charity Oxfam Australia has congratulated the two retailers along with Country Road and Hanes, which owns Bonds, on the development.
“This is vitally important,” Oxfam Australia’s chief executive, Lyn Morgan, told AAP.
“For the women who make our clothes, we’re ensuring that the big brands are not using their power in negotiations to effectively drive worse conditions.”
Ms Morgan said the move adds transparency, showing how much money is going towards labour costs and insulating them from downward pressure on prices.
A living wage is calculated based on a person working 48 hours a week and earning enough money for their basic daily needs.
Oxfam has been campaigning for better treatment of garment workers in southeast Asia, who make clothes that Australians wear.
In November, the charity published a report evaluating how retailers’ business practices affected the quality of life among Bangladeshi garment workers, most of whom are women.
H&M ranked highest of the brands surveyed, while the companies behind Just Jeans and Rivers had room to improve.
At least 19 other major fashion brands have promised to ringfence labour costs, Oxfam says. They include H&M, Big W and Cotton On.
Oxfam is on Friday launching an advertising blitz in shopping centres to raise awareness of low wages in the fashion industry.
Ms Morgan said this week’s development showed brands are aware that consumers don’t want to “wear poverty” and are informing themselves about the ethics of retail supply chains.
“We’ve got a number of brands that have been, if you like, intransigent…They are making a calculated risk that the market doesn’t care and I wonder whether their shareholders would share that view.
“Because there’s an awful lot of evidence now, and you can see it in the behaviour of the other brands, that it is increasingly a part of the value proposition of a brand. There are risks in being associated with poverty wages.”