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Global fashion brands show “shamefully” low levels of transparency

By Danielle Wightman-Stone

Apr 18, 2016


London - Global fashion brands must do more on transparency, Fashion Revolution has warned as its launches its inaugural Fashion Transparency Index to mark the start of Fashion Revolution Week, which runs from April 18-24.

The report comes ahead of the three-year anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed 1,134 people on April 24, and shows that 40 percent of the companies surveyed do not have a system in place to monitor compliance with labour standards, while only 11 companies show evidence of working with trade unions, civil society or NGOs on the ground in supplier countries to improve working conditions.

Fashion Revolution in partnership with Ethical Consumer has ranked 40 of the biggest global fashion brands according to the level of transparency in their supply chain, which they say the more transparency they have equals greater consumer and regulatory accountability in the supply chain.

The average score for the 40 brands surveyed was 42 percent, with Levi Strauss and Co coming top with 77 percent, while French fashion house Chanel came bottom with just 10 percent, closely followed by Forever 21, Claire’s Accessories, Hermes, Louis Vuitton and Prada, with Fashion Revolution stating that luxury brands, in particular, have “much more work to do”.

Fashion Revolution co-founder Carry Somers, said: “Lack of transparency costs lives. It is impossible for companies to make sure human rights are respected and that environmental practices are sound without knowing where their products are made, who is making them and under what conditions. When companies are working in a transparent way, this also implies openness, communication, and accountability across the supply chain and with the public.”

Fashion Revolution publishes inaugural Fashion Transparency Index

Along with Levi’s, Swedish fashion chain H&M and the Inditex group that includes Zara, Bershka and Pull and Bear both were at the top of the ranking with 76 percent, with high marks across the five categories - policy and commitment, tracking and traceability, social and environmental audits, engagement and collaboration, and governance.

The report notes that Inditex was the only fashion company to score a perfect 100 percent in any category, for governance. However, it adds that all three companies scored well as they are doing more than most other brands to communicate publicly about their supply chain practices and that they seem to have many robust systems in place for tracking, tracing, monitoring and improving labour and environmental practices across the supply chain.

Other key findings from the report included that only five of the companies - Adidas, H&M, Levi Strauss and Co and Nike, which includes Converse, publish a list of all or the vast majority of their Cut-Make-Trim suppliers, while only two - Adidas and H&M publish details of their second-tier suppliers such as fabric and yarn mills and/or subcontractors.

Additionally, half of the companies surveyed appear to have nothing in place to monitor where raw materials come from, or at least do no share this information publicly, and 20 percent of companies do not disclose how they work with non-compliant factories in order to improve conditions. The report notes that Levi Strauss publishes the most information about their corrective action plans.

The report does congratulate a number of fashion brands including Levi Strauss and Co, H&M, Inditex, Adidas and Primark , which they state are the “most transparent global fashion companies”, compared to the rest of the brands surveyed.

Somers, added: “The public do not have enough information about where and how their clothes are made. Shoppers have the right to know that their money is not supporting exploitation, human rights abuses, and environment destruction. It was recently reported that Islamic State has taken over three-quarters of the cotton fields in Syria.

“How do we as consumers know that we aren’t supporting ISIS or slave labour with the next cotton garment we buy? There is no way to hold companies and governments to account if we can’t see what is truly happening behind the scenes. This is why transparency is so essential.”

The 40 fashion brands were selected based on annual turnover and were assessed both via a questionnaire and by information they made publicly available.

Ethical Consumer Research Associate lead researcher Bryony Moore, commented: “The results show that while some companies are making reasonable efforts to make their supply chains more transparent, there are a large number of companies who fall far short and are still seemingly operating with little knowledge and control of their supply chain. Some companies have nothing more than a Code of Conduct.”

The seven fashion companies at the bottom of the index, Chanel, Hermes, Claire’s Accessories, Forever 21, Fendi, LVMH, and Monsoon Accessorize all scored badly across all areas as the report stated that they had no information about their supply chain practices available to the public and added that many of these companies seem to do little more than have a Code of Conduct in place. In addition, each one didn’t respond to the questionnaire.

Fashion Revolution is hoping that the index will encourage the public to contact their favourite brands to encourage them to publish more about their policies, practices, products and the people making their clothes, as well as answer the important question #whomademyclothes through a social media campaign.

Fashion Revolution Week takes place from April 18 to 24 in 89 countries worldwide. Events in the UK includes a fashion question time hosted and chaired by MP Mary Creagh, the launch of ‘The Upcycle Project’, which will bring together the next generation of fashion designers in a 2 day upcycling workshop, with a private view and auction, the Flux: Fair Luxury Conference and three Fashion Revolution events as part of Utopia at Somerset House.

Image: Fashion Revolution