Sportswear giants Adidas and Reebok and outdoor clothing brand Patagonia have been named as the corporates leading the fashion sector’s drive for greater transparency around supply chain activity, in a new ranking of 200 of the industry’s largest companies.
Published on Wednesday (24 April), Fashion Revolution’s 2019 Fashion Transparency Index assesses 200 big-name fashion retailers and designers on the amount of information they disclose regarding human rights and environmental policies, commitments and impacts to date.
The Index specifically assesses companies across five key areas: policy and commitments; governance; traceability; “know, show and fix” (how does the brand identify and rectify sustainability problems?); and spotlight issues (gender equality, worker rights and climate action and waste), before giving them an overall score out of 250 possible points.
This year marked the first time that any brands scored more than 60% in the annually published rankings, with Adidas, Reebok and Patagonia all scoring 64%. The top five is completed by Espirit (62%) and H&M (61%).
Promisingly, the 98 brands which have been reviewed annually since 2017 were found to have increased their score by an average of 8.9% over the two-year period. Fashion Revolution claims that this shows a trend towards “progressive brands now taking real, tangible steps to disclose more about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts”.
However, no companies have yet broken the 70% mark – and that the average score among the report’s 30 largest firms was just 21%. River Island, Forever 21 and Sports Direct, for example, were among the 72 brands to have scored less than 10%.
“The progress we are seeing this year, coupled with the feedback Fashion Revolution has received from brands, suggests that inclusion in the Fashion Transparency Index has motivated major fashion brands to be more transparent – we are seeing many brands publishing their supplier lists and improving their scores year on year,” Fashion Revolution’s policy director Sarah Ditty said.
“However, there is still a lot of work to be done. Major brands are disclosing very little information and data about their purchasing practices, which means that we still don’t have visibility into what brands are doing to be responsible business partners to their suppliers.”
A ‘new layer’ of transparency
In related news, H&M has this week committed to share details regarding supplier names, factory names and addresses and the materials it uses to make all garments and the majority of its homeware ranges online.
The company began listing this information alongside products across 47 of its global online markets this week. It has also been made available to in-store customers through the H&M app, which enables shoppers to scan price tags to receive supply chain information on their phones.
The move comes after a successful trial of this disclosure framework for H&M’s “Conscious Exclusive” collections during 2017.
“By being open and transparent about where our products are made we hope to set the bar for our industry and encourage customers to make more sustainable choices,” H&M’s head of sustainability Isak Roth said.
“With transparency comes responsibility, making transparency such an important factor to help create a more sustainable fashion industry.”
The move comes after H&M was accused by green campaigners of failing to fulfil a commitment to pay all garment workers enough to keep them above the poverty line.
In response to the issue, the company has begun to host “Transparency Hacks” to crowdsource ideas on how it – and other corporates – can be more transparent about their supply chain practices. The first of these events, which took place last August, saw representatives from companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Nike and Patagonia meet to research and develop innovative ways to trace products and raw materials at every stage of the supply chain.
Who made my clothes?
The publication of Fashion Revolution’s report has been timed to coincide with Fashion Revolution Week 2019 – a global event which unites fashion industry stakeholders across the world in seven days of action, with the overall aim of co-creating a more ethical and sustainable fashion future by boosting transparency and traceability.
To mark the occasion, reporter Sarah George has quizzed some of the key figures helping to make the fashion sector a more planet-friendly and ethical industry for the latest episode of our Sustainable Business Covered podcast. You can listen to that episode for free by clicking here, or by visiting edie on Spotify or iTunes.