Which brands score top marks for transparency? You’d be surprised

Bangladesh garment factory, picture courtesy Wikipedia

Bangladesh garment factory, picture courtesy Wikipedia

Fashion Revolution, the not-for-profit group aiming to boost transparency in the fashion industry, and Ethical Consumer, have released new research highlighting the lack of transparency in the global fashion supply chain. And guess what? It doesn’t make encouraging reading.

But some surprising brands score well and some equally surprising ones are bottom of the list. So who (almost) makes the grade and who doesn’t?

Well, the news release that dropped into my inbox today (among other releases such as Donny Osmond celebrating 50 years in showbiz and a 90th birthday celebration picture of the Queen made out of car parts) showed that the top scorer is Levi’s. The global denim industry may get a bad press but Levi Strauss scored 77%, followed by H&M, Zara owner Inditex, Adidas and frequently-criticised Primark. Fashion revolution said they’re the most transparent global fashion companies, compared to the rest of the brands surveyed.

Given the usual assumption that low-price brands are the least concerned with supply chain transparency because they only care about keeping prices down, the names at the bottom of the list came as something of a surprise too.

Rana Plaza aftermath, picture courtesy Fashion Revolution

Rana Plaza aftermath, picture courtesy Fashion Revolution

Ultra-luxe Chanel was bottom on 10%, followed by Forever 21, Claire’s Accessories, then a trio of luxury names, Hermès, Louis Vuitton and Prada (it’s really not a great time for Prada on the news front, is it?)

The average score across all 40 of the brands examined was a pretty unimpressive 42%.

So what does it all mean? Fashion Revolution said global fashion brands must do more on transparency, and has launched the inaugural Fashion Transparency Index. A lot of the brands you know and possibly love are  in there so do check it out to see how they score.

The Index comes just ahead of the third anniversary this Sunday of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh. More than 1,100 people were killed in factories operating in the building that made clothes for over a dozen well-known international fashion brands. But lack of transparency in the supply chain meant it took weeks for some companies to determine whether they had relationships with those factories, despite their clothing labels being found in the rubble.

Carry Somers, co-founder of Fashion Revolution 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”.

Garment manufcaturing in Bangladesh, picture courtesy Wikipedia

Garment manufcaturing in Bangladesh, picture courtesy Wikipedia

The research revealed that most companies tracked have publicly available policies on environmental and labour standards but there’s “a notable absence of long-term thinking in their sustainability strategies, or at least that they are sharing publicly.”

  • It said 40% of companies don’t appear to have a system in place to monitor compliance with labour standards, and to continually improve standards, with responsibility at the executive board level.
  • Only five of the companies (Adidas, H&M, Levi Strauss & Co and Nike, which includes Converse) publish a list of all or the vast majority of their Cut-Make-Trim suppliers.
  • While 60% of companies surveyed appear to be tracking their first-tier CMT suppliers, they aren’t publishing this information publicly and only two companies (Adidas and H&M) publish details of their second-tier suppliers (fabric and yarn mills and/or subcontractors).
  • Only 11 companies show evidence of working with trade unions, civil society or NGOs on the ground in supplier countries to improve working conditions, and H&M, Inditex, Levi Strauss, Primark and PVH appear to be involved in the most multi-stakeholder initiatives.
  • Half of the companies surveyed appear to have nothing in place to monitor where raw materials come from, or at least don’t share this information publicly.

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