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Footwear Companies Ranked on Forced Labor for First Time

As companies throughout the retail sector work to eradicate forced labor from their supply chain, a new study is shining a light on the footwear brands that are making the greatest efforts to address exploitation.

KnowTheChain, a San Francisco-based company that works with businesses and investors on issues of labor abuse, has published its ranking of 20 large apparel and footwear companies based on their efforts to eradicate forced labor and human trafficking from their supply chains.

German footwear giant Adidas ranked first among all apparel and footwear companies in the survey, scoring 81 out of 100 points. The four highest performing companies (Adidas, Gap, H&M and Lululemon) all achieved scores above 60 out of 100.

In its report, KnowTheChain cites Adidas’ Modern Day Slavery Supply Chain Evaluation program, launched in 2016, as key to its success in cutting exploitation out of its supply chain.

The Adidas program, which targets second-tier suppliers and subcontractors, seeks to address the potential risks of forced labor in the third-tier raw materials supply chain, including conventional cotton, leather, and natural rubber.

Adidas’ chief competitors in the athletic footwear space, Nike and Under Armour, didn’t perform as hotly. Nike scored a middling 49 out of 100, while Under Armour scored only 38, tying it with Fast Retailing Inc. to put it the bottom five worst-performing companies in the survey.

Among the lowest performing companies were Hong Kong-based Belle International Holdings (0/100), Chinese clothing manufacturer Shenzhou International Group Holdings (1/100), and the luxury Italian fashion house, Prada (9/100).

“Despite international and brand attention on worker issues for more than twenty years, many retailers haven’t addressed the deep seeded causes of worker abuse in their supply chains. Hopefully, this benchmark will help them recognize that they need to do better by the people making their clothes and shoes,” said Killian Moote, director of KnowTheChain.