Where stitched our T-Shirts, Shirts, blouses, Jeans and sweaters, we can easily find out. A look at the label: Made in Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Pakistan, China, or Made in Cambodia. And everyone knows the suffering story that goes with it. Very likely not pay seamstresses a fair. Maybe they were treated so badly, that you do not prefer to think about it. But the bad Conscience remains. A coat for 39,90 Euro! How is that possible? An autumn dress for 19,90 euros! The conditions under which it was sewn? The photo of the dusty corpses of a woman and a man, were recovered in the spring of 2013 from the ruins of the textile factory Rana Plaza collapsed in Bangladesh, no longer concerns us from the head.

In the stores of C&A, H&M, Zara or Primark customers becomes more and more critical questions: What is your company doing to ensure that it is fair? Why increase your not just the prices for T-Shirts and pants to a couple of cents and ensure that it goes to the seamstresses and their families better?

Yes, why not?

studies by the market research Institute GfK show that half of the clients ethics and morals play when purchasing an important role. They are even willing to pay for sustainably and fairly produced clothing. There is a feeling of real Economy.


fingerprint is closer to the inside of a time recording device from the book. You work eight to ten hours on six days of the week.

©Philipp von Ditfurth star closer to a Dollar earn by the hour

The factory lies behind high walls in the outskirts of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. A security guard opens the three-Meter-high steel gate to the site of the company Seduno. The hall with the seamstresses as big as a football field. In 42 long series of 2000, mostly young women, sit here on narrow wooden benches, bent slightly forwards behind sewing machines. It rattles and buzzes. A Roar fills the hall like ocean surf. 18 millions of pieces they produce per year. The factory chief laughs, his whole body sways in the midst of the waves from the noise and humid air. “So it sounds, if all works well,” he says proudly. Some of the women look up and smile sheepishly. Sew hoodies for C&A and blouses, H&M, which will be sold in a few weeks in Germany.

Above each of the seamstress, a colored pennant. He is green, is located in the. Orange means Detention. In the lunch break, some lie down exhausted in the shade under a load of container cars with a Ship on it. He is just loaded with goods for Europe.

item six in the evening, all the sewing machines stand idle. The women from stamping their fingerprint in a time attendance machine. Minutes later, the flash of neon light goes out in the hall. Three seamstresses to stay for an interview with the star. From the factory management, no one is, as a friendly gesture, but it took them six bottles of water in a meeting room. The women say they are likely to talk openly. It was a good factory. There were many that were worse.

you work eight to ten hours on six days of the week. Sometimes, seven. You can earn with good performance for about a Dollar per hour. A pittance, even here in Cambodia. Their families can’t live on it.


The embroidery machine makes too many errors, workers have to process every Detail. Some of them wear a Mouth guard because of the dust.

©Philipp von Ditfurth star

the interpreter translated the question: How much more would you like to earn?

The three looking on in disbelief. You’ve never asked someone. In Cambodia, the government determines how much, in the factories, the minimum wage of 170 dollars a month is paid.

So, who says something? Finally, pH horn says, at 37 the Oldest in the round: “Maybe five dollars.” You mean five dollars more a week. Heng, the calls Latest: “Or ten?”

their faces. You talk about it now, what would you do with the money. You could then buy better food, not just the acidic cheap soups for ten cents in plastic bag packaged at the dealers in front of the gate. The women eat too little, you save yourself every penny of the mouth. It happens that you collapse during the work. Or you could buy a used Moped. Then you would not need the car any longer to load in the factory, in which they stand on the back of the flatbed. The vehicles are dangerous to life. Every week die in Cambodia, closer to the inside on the way to work. Or better yet, would you save the money for the school of their children.

Only a few dollars more a day would make for the women and their families a huge difference. And the shirts, sweaters and pants that you sew, would actually cost only a few cents more. No Consumer would feel it.

The wage costs for a T-Shirt in Cambodia at 15 to 20 cents.

Five cents more – why not? Or even 50?

The companies have responded so far: “The factories where the goods are manufactured, do not belong to us.” – ” We don’t set the wages.” – “It is to be paid the minimum wage!” And if they answered honestly, they said: “We do not want to miss the Profit.”

So it was in the past.

Interview, Bangladesh, Vietnam and China, “miss hush stands”: Tchibo for human rights in the textile factories Of Norbert Höfler

But now, a rethinking is taking place. In the Silent 20 international fashion companies have merged. C&A, H&M, Tchibo, and Zara (Inditex), also of the US group PVH Corp. brands Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein. Even the cheap fashion store Primark. You want that in the textile factories higher wages are paid. And, this is the groundbreaking New: companies are willing to bear the higher costs. Even if it is at the expense at the end of their own profits.

cooperation and change

The organization that they founded together, is ACT, Action, Collaboration, Transformation. That’s just it: action, collaboration, and change. The German Frank Hoffer, who has worked for many years for the International labour organization ILO, in a number of important positions, coordinates the Initiative. He says: “Our concept is radically new and ambitious. It is the most promising way to improve the working conditions of millions of garment workers.”

so Far, left the fashion business in the countries and factories in sewing, where it is cheapest. This should now stop. Capitalists break with den rules of capitalism.

More: fashion groups, the disabled in their own branches, the work of works councils for a long time, to advertise in Asia for the model of the collective partnership. In the process, unions and employers negotiate the wages. The government keeps out. The employees are involved in the processes of the companies. You will be asked and heard. You can also have a say when it comes to work safety, health protection or surcharges for certain types of Work.

Cambodia is a test case. It works there, to Bangladesh, Myanmar and many other countries to follow.

Cambodia, with its 16 million people belongs to the poor homes of the world. For 33 years the car ruled democratic Prime Minister Hun Sen and his power clique. The main export items are textiles. They make up more than 75 percent of the trade. Every tenth T-Shirt in the world bears the Label Made in Cambodia. The main raw material of the country are toiling young workers, especially women, who are willing for a little money. Over 730,000 are employed in the textile factories. The whole country depends on the business with the fabric.


a break in the fabric warehouse. With the mobile phones, the women keep contact with their families in the province. Most seamstresses also send money on a regular basis.

©Philipp von Ditfurth star

the rear of the Hotel “Cambodiana” in Phnom Penh, flowing brown and hard to the Mekong river. It is the rainy season, huge masses of water roll to the South in the Gulf of Thailand. During the Vietnam war, the war correspondents from all over the world stayed in the “Cambodiana”. Under the mass murderer Pol Pot, the Hotel was a storage for fertilizers. After the end of terror of the Khmer Rouge, the building was renovated. Now the fashion industry wants to write history. It is in the middle of September, and the conference blocked rooms for a whole week. Trade unionists, Industrialists, government representatives are expected to attend.

The purchasing heads of fashion companies and experts in sustainability – Sustainability Manager.

Some of you may only speak with the star, if their names are not called. Because it’s unpleasant truths about your industry come to light. The industry’s production methods in a cul-de-SAC.

“industry has changed in the last 100 years”

One of them says: “Our industry has changed in the last 100 years. People still sit behind sewing machines. We have become faster and with our sewing machines around the globe pulled. It has been a race to the bottom: cheap, cheaper, cheapest, from Europe to China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and soon it goes to Africa. But we have modernised the industry? No! It is a shame.”

Instead, a control system was designed to prevent so – called Audits-to the worst excesses, and to calm down the critical consumers in Europe and North America. Independent monitors, NGOs, non-governmental organizations, were in charge of. Tens of thousands of well-paid Jobs were created. The industry around, a bacon belt of the Overseer, developed, financed by donations from the consumer and from the companies themselves.

However, the Audits turned out to be a sham. The Watchdog System is devouring millions and brings too little. It was not possible to fix the abuses in the factories permanently. Hardly the inspector out of the door, was blocked again, the bales of the emergency exit.

In the coffee breaks, the sustainability experts of the battle that you cannot win tell. The driver of the inspection teams are bribed by the factory managers. You betrayed upcoming Audits. In the case of Transparency International Cambodia in the ranking of the most corrupt countries in the world, ranked 161 out of 180.

In the “Cambodiana” is the young guard of the textile Manager the sound. They call themselves “the third Generation” . Unlike their predecessors they do not want to repair the old System only abuses to cover up or play down, you want to achieve fundamental changes. Instead of relying on checks from the outside, workers and trade unions in the factories strengthened. You will notice as the First, if fire extinguishers are missing, to be forced closer to the inside Sunday work, overtime supplements are not paid for or women to be sexually harassed.

“I imagine it’s my own daughter,”

Jenny Fagerlin would be worked for ten years as an expert for social sustainability for the Swedish fashion giant H&M in India and Asia. You may speak without a muzzle. She says, you have to force a clear statement from the group’s headquarters in Stockholm, the new ACT System. You will support trade unionists. If a factory makes men’s stubborn, she may threaten to Not support the withdrawal of orders. It is fast to amounts in the millions. About your personal Motivation, she says: “I imagine it would be my own daughter, who is sitting behind a sewing machine. Then I wonder: What would you feel?”

star-report The price of decency By Norbert Höfler

But human love is not alone. The fashion giant to respond to pressure from their customers who want to shop with a clear Conscience. H&M or C&A, for example, the list of factories that sew for you. In the case of service industry, a sub-brand of H&M, learns of the buyer even in the factory his T-Shirt, or his pants was made. Fashion companies, and sewing closer together. As the old excuse does not work any more: We could not but suspect what’s going on behind the factory gates.

And yet something is different than before: When the owners of the fashion companies, a change of generation. Industry giants such as C&A, H&M, Tchibo, and Zara are located, in whole or in large part owned by the family. The children or grandchildren of the founders do not want to be as a people, abusers and exploiters of the Public presented. A Manager in the “Cambodiana” says: “The owner families have understood that you can’t run from the responsibility of it.”

The idea for the ACT does not come from the boardrooms of the corporations. Jenny hold Croft, a Union woman with Australian roots, was the impetus. Hold Croft is the Deputy head of the, founded in 2012, global Union Federation Industriall. The organization represents 50 million Workers. President Jörg Hofmann, head of the German IG Metall.

Jenny hold Croft, flopping into one of the green plush chair in the hotel lobby. It’s Friday afternoon, a week full of negotiations behind her. She says: “It is new territory for all of us. So close we were to the goal.”


at lunch, under the shade of the roof Seduno. Many of the women do not eat enough, you will have to save for their families.

©Philipp von Ditfurth star Rana Plaza, the 9/11 of the fashion industry

For the past five years, the talks drag on. After the collapse of the textile factory Rana Plaza in Bangladesh, in which more than 1100 people died and over 2000 were injured, shocked the industry. All controls had failed. It’s the 9/11 of the fashion industry. Now the corporations were to basic changes. Hold Croft seized the opportunity and campaigned for a new course: collective agreements for the textile industry in Asia. To their Surprise, they were the Big players in the industry. Now, had yet to be clarified, where the Experiment can start.

hold Croft recalls: “We discussed a whole day. It had to be a country where there are trade unions and in the ACT-corporations with their purchasing power as high as possible pressure on factory owners and the government can exercise.” According to the Motto: Either you, or we let our goods in the future in other countries produce. With C&A, H&M and Zara on Board, it was clear that it can only be Cambodia. The groups from loads with your orders, about a third of the factories in the country.

The journey takes you to the outskirts of Phnom Penh. For 20 kilometers, the Taxi takes almost two hours. Trucks, cars, Tuk Tuks and Mopeds crawling on a four-lane road to eight lanes through the duration of the jam. The city is growing rapidly. In addition to settlements of corrugated-iron huts investors from China office and apartment pounding high – rises from the muddy ground. Children play in open sewers. Branch roads lead to the mighty grey halls. It is the textile factories. They are easy to see: no Windows, but large Openings with fans, fresh air into the Interior of the blow, so that the clothes will be storied.

Through an arched doorway, high as a four storey house, it goes in the special economic zone. The exit is guarded by armed security people. Right behind it is a modern office building is GMAC: the Headquarters of the Association of the textile industry in Cambodia, in short. In the Elevator to the head office of the piano music of Chopin playing quietly. Outdoors, it is almost 38 degrees, inside 20. The air conditioning is soon to be supplied with solar electricity from the roof, says the boss of pride welcome.

The most powerful man in the textile industry

Ken Loo, 44, is the most powerful man in the textile industry of Cambodia. He represents the interests of more than 560 companies. Most of them are investors from China and Hong Kong. Loo loves to talk about Numbers: 46 percent of the production is exported to Europe, 21 in the USA, the Rest goes to Japan, Australia and China. The business has been growing for years. But the margins are shrinking. Only three to five percent profit to be in it, says Loo.

His view of the world capitalist is strictly. For visitors from Europe, he briefly summarizes: “The young women in Cambodia have the choice to toil in abject poverty in the rice fields or to work as seamstresses.” Both had not great, but hey, it works. Loo sees the textile industry as a pioneer of globalisation. He says: “We come First, and if wages rise, we’ll pull out.” For a textile factory, you just need a large hall, sewing machines and a couple of Thousand of cheap labour, and you could go anywhere in the world. He points behind on a world map and says: “Yesterday in Singapore, Korea or China, today’s Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia, in the morning in Africa.”


On the markets, the factories, the seamstresses for their families to buy. A can of coke costs a Dollar, the syrup is made from pressed sugar cane only a few cents.

©Philipp von Ditfurth star, There is no guarantee for success

He reaches into the fridge next to his Desk, puts ice-cold water bottles on the table and says theatrically: “The price for plastic water rises, the price of clothing falls. There is something wrong here.” It is interesting to see how he thinks about the idea, as collective bargaining partners will have to negotiate collective agreements with trade unions.

Loo smiles. He says quietly: “What is happening now is revolutionary. The philosophy behind it is revolutionary. If it is implemented in practice, it will change the textile industry.” So far, the fashion companies have pushed the prices constantly, and at the same time demands that the workers are paid better. This is the first Time different. Revolutionary.

Loo makes a long Pause. Waiting for a “But”.

It comes: “But we want to have guarantees.”

Loo does not require, that H&M and co. move in a few years, because wages have risen and factories in other countries offer cheaper.

Ken Loo says: “The factories in Cambodia, the factories in Vietnam, Bangladesh and Pakistan have to be in the foreseeable future.”

And then the threat: “If that does not happen, I am optimistic.”

Loo stands up and walks over to the window, he needs to smoke. Last question: Who has convinced you to ACT?

He blows a load of smoke out of the window. His answer: “I myself. My Supervisory Board, is skeptical. The members in my organization there are still more. I, personally, believe. If it succeeds, it is great. Progress. I am, therefore, to ensure that the factories can decide whether or not they participate in the ACT or not. I say: Grabs the fish on the table; if he is tasty, he ate, if he stinks, he stays.”

He must go now. In the “Cambodiana” wait on him. There, Loo learns that the fashion companies are ready to give the guarantees. A Breakthrough. The unions are already on Board. The Cambodian government, it is since a few days. It is now possible that this year the first surface of the collective agreement is signed in the textile industry in Asia. It would be a turning point.

When wages rise, it must be the production more efficient. Some of the factories set up in it, like Dakota Industrial, with sewing factories in China, Myanmar and Cambodia.

Herman Leung from Hong Kong, manages the business. He runs through the factory in Phnom Penh. On the ground floor, the sewing machine behind the sewing machine is still working traditionally. The first floor has a Computer to control the production. Half-finished pieces of clothing to pull iron from a Nähstation to the other. Like on an Assembly line in a car factory. In Dakota, you may even find that a seamstress has made a particular piece of clothing. You could print the name on the label.


item six in the evening to open I the factory gate at the Dakota. The workers want as quickly as possible after home. In the dark the roads are dangerous. There are always accidents and Deaths.

©Philipp von Ditfurth star digitisation, rather than pay printing house

Three closer to the star to show their pay slips. You will earn between 300 and 400 dollars – significantly more than the minimum wage of 170 dollars. The company pays bonuses for good performance, there are subsidies for the health insurance part of the travel costs. Even for the care of small children, there are a couple of dollars.

The salary is paid in the factories are usually at the end of the week bar. In the case of Dakota’s work load inside their pay at an ATM on a credit card. You have your money under control, not her husband.

Makes Dakota a profit?

Manager Leung says: “Yes.”

his company in Cambodia or Africa?

“We remain.”

A Team is working on a new production system. The fashion companies are not order numbers with Dakota in the future, more piece of, but by App production hours buy. This makes the processes faster and, nice side effect is that It will be even easier, the wage increases to the fashion companies directly in the invoice.

item six in the evening, sewing machines and computers, but still even with Dakota. Leung would have the expensive equipment like in the layer. But this doesn’t work. The way to work at night for the workers to dangerous, and the error rates in the production were too high.

At the end of the buyers of the fashion companies, which factories to determine get the award. You have it in Hand, whether the wage successful Revolution.

The buyers from H&M sitting in the centre of Hong Kong in an anonymous office tower. Shopping-in-chief David Sävman conducted worldwide 3300 employees, which provide for the replenishment for the 4800 stores, and 200 online stores of fashion giants. Sävman is one of the Revolutionary. He says: “We buy the Cheapest. This is all over.” With the higher wages for the workers as he had no Problem. Because the wages and hence the cost of each T-Shirts rise for the competitors at Zara and C&A. So no one has a competitive advantage. But the continuous downward pressure on the Weakest in the chain. It was good, he finds.

For all the others in the competition. Sävman and his people are working doggedly to keep the cost low, the pace of delivery in the to increase chain and to increase profitability. At H&M, they have developed a method they call it Scientific Pricing academic pricing. Each button, each package is optimized. They also help the factories to make the processes more efficient.

The race goes on, but maybe with a few new rules of the game: in the interest of the women in the factories. First in Cambodia, then hopefully soon everywhere.

The seamstress pH horn said at parting: “When you are back home and on the label in the Store Made in Cambodia read, then you might think that each garment was made by Hand. Maybe me and the other women. It would be nice if you think about it, if you put the stuff next Time.”

I Promise.

+++ You can find the english version of this report here +++