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Report: Levi’s Has Greenest Supply Chain in China, But Most Brands Fall Short

When it comes to oversight in the fashion industry, the results are a bit of a mixed bag. After examining 80 multinational clothing retailers with supply chains in China, Beijing’s Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) found that only eight—Levi Strauss, Adidas, C&A, Inditex (which owns Zara), H&M, Primark, Nike and Target—take their environmental responsibilities, “both compliance and beyond compliance, ”seriously.

As part of its 2019 Green Supply Chain Corporate Information Transparency Index (CITI), IPE assigned scores to companies based on several factors, including responsiveness and transparency, meaning the brand conducts follow-up actions when it’s notified of supplier violations, keeps stakeholders updated with details of subsequent investigations and prompts offending suppliers to release public explanations.

A company might receive higher points if it screens its suppliers’ environmental compliance at least quarterly and requires suppliers with prior violations to take corrective actions to remediate any shortcomings. Points may be maximized for companies that disclose information about energy and water use, along with the discharge of key pollutants and chemical, beyond legal requirements.

And bonus points are awarded if the company has identified high-impact suppliers (particularly those beyond Tier 1) and prioritized them for compliance screenings and corrective actions.

A brand’s adoption of IPE’s Blue EcoChain tool—which allows companies to track their suppliers’ environmental performance in real time and issues push notifications when compliance violations emerge—also afforded extra points to its 2019 CITI score. IPE credits Blue EcoChain for the overall increase in supplier oversight this year.

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“Blue EcoChain creates the opportunity to elevate supply-chain programs to an equal partnership between brands and suppliers, such that accountability for compliance issues rest equally on the suppliers’ shoulders, rather than fully relying upon continuing efforts of the brand to detect problems,” Ma Jun, director of IPE, said in a statement. “The system is now delivering very promising results.”

The company with the greenest supply chain in China, according to IPE, is Levi’s, which scored 75.88 points out of a possible 100. It was followed by Adidas (70.64), C&A (70.24), Inditex (69.36), H&M (69.12), Primark (67.8), Nike (67.32) and Target (60.12).

Brands that scored zero—indicating “no activity on the ground whatsoever,” not even responses to factory violations—included DKNY, Hush Puppies, Kappa, Pierre Cardin, River Island, Roxy and Umbro. Even brands that have touted their eco-friendly bonafides garnered failing grades: Prada received just 7.06 points, Ralph Lauren 4.2 and G-Star Raw 3.48.

“Consumers around the world concerned about sustainability should check the CITI rank of their favorite brands,” Linda E. Greer, global fellow at IPE, said. “They should reach out to these brands and post on social media with expressions of praise or disappointment about these scores—and leverage their purchasing power to motivate companies to do more, particularly those at the bottom of the list.”