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H&M and Gucci Lead Most Transparent Fashion Brands—Here’s Why

H&M, C&A, Adidas, Esprit, Marks & Spencer and Patagonia are the most transparent clothing companies on the high street, according to an annual ranking of 250 of the world’s largest brands and retailers based on publicly disclosed social policies.

Published by grassroots group Fashion Revolution, the fifth Fashion Transparency Index also lists Gucci as leading the way in the luxury sector.

Since 2016, Fashion Revolution has tracked major brands and benchmarked their performance against five key areas: policy and commitments, governance, supplier assessment and remediation, traceability and spotlight issues.

This year’s index includes 220 indicators across social and environmental topics such as animal welfare, biodiversity, chemicals, climate, due diligence, forced labor, freedom of association, gender equality, living wages, purchasing practices, waste and recycling, supplier disclosure and working conditions.

2020 marks the first year that brands have scored 70 percent or higher, “showing that progressive brands are taking real, tangible steps to disclose more about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts,” the organization said.

H&M topped the list with 73 percent out of a possible 250 points—followed by C&A at 70 percent, Adidas and Reebok at 69 percent, Esprit at 64 percent and Patagonia and Marks & Spencer at 60 percent.

“We always aim to be as transparent as possible in our progress towards a more sustainable fashion future, as well as the challenges ahead, in order to keep driving industry change,” Hanna Hallin, global strategy lead for transparency at H&M Group, said in a statement. “We are committed to continue taking steps for greater transparency so customers can make informed decisions and drive a positive impact in the industry through our extensive work to become fully circular and climate positive, while being a fair and equal company.”

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Hennes and Mauritz is the most transparent high-street brand but Gucci leads the luxury sector, according to a Fashion Revolution report.
H&M topped Fashion Revolution’s list with 73 percent out of a possible 250 points. IBL/Shutterstock

Gucci racked up 48 percent, up from 40 percent the previous year. It was also the only brand to score 100 percent under policy and commitments, though its fellow Kering brands came in “just behind.”

“Gucci is pleased to share that, for the second consecutive year, it has achieved the highest score overall for luxury brands in the Fashion Transparency Index 2020,” the brand said in a statement. “Gucci also reconfirms its commitment to continue to embed social and environmental sustainability across its business and supply chains.”

Ermenegildo Zegna became the first luxury brand to publish a detailed list of its suppliers.

Forty percent of the 220 brands now publish a list of their first-tier manufacturers, an increase from 35 percent last year. This year, 24 percent of the brands are also publishing some of their processing facilities, up from 19 percent in 2019, and 7 percent are publishing some of their raw-material suppliers, up from 5 percent last year.

“While we are seeing notable progress made on transparency, there is still much more fashion brands can do to provide credible and comprehensive data that enables consumers to make better decisions, unions and NGOs to help brands do better for workers and the living planet, and any other stakeholders to drive further progress,” Sarah Ditty, global policy director at Fashion Revolution and the report’s author, said in a statement.

Indeed, more than half of the brands reviewed scored 20 percent or less, showing a steep curve to achieving industry-wide transparency.

The lowest scoring brands, with a score of 0 percent, include Bally, Max Mara, Pepe Jeans, Tom Ford, Elie Tahari, Jessica Simpson and Mexx.

The growing COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating impact cancelled orders and delayed payments have had on already bled-dry garment workers proves why transparency is so vital and “why we cannot afford to return to business as usual,” Fashion Revolution said.

“If major brands and retailers publish information about how they do business with their suppliers, then we can hold them to account in situations like this where their buying practices are hitting factories and workers hard,” it added.

The 2020 index reveals that only 6 percent of brands disclose a policy to pay suppliers within 60 days, and only 2 percent publish the percentage of orders with on-time payments to suppliers according to agreed terms.

Furthermore, just 15 percent of brands publish a “responsible exit strategy” that details the steps they take when they stop working with a supplier, versus “cutting and running.”

Meanwhile, just 2 percent of brands disclose the percentage above the minimum wage that workers within their supply chain are paid; only Patagonia reveals data on the number of workers in their supply chain who receive a living wage.

“The Fashion Transparency Index has enabled us to have constructive conversations with major brands about what they can do to be more transparent,” Ditty said.

“We believe transparency is the first step in holding them to account for the impacts of their business practices. We will continue to use the Index to measure brands’ annual progress on transparency and to push them harder and faster towards taking greater responsibility for their policies and actions on social and environmental issues.”