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Report: The Apparel Industry Still Has a Long Way to Go on Transparency

Adidas and Reebok are helping to write the playbook for transparency in the fashion industry. The performance apparel and footwear brands topped Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index 2018, which reviews and ranks how much information 150 of the biggest global fashion companies publish about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts.

Brands were scored on five factors: policy and commitments, governance, traceability, supplier assessment and remediation and spotlight issues, which look at living wages, unionization, recycling and waste management among other topics.

For a second consecutive year, Adidas and Reebok achieved the highest score of 144.5 out of 250 points, followed by Puma, H&M, Esprit, Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, C&A and Marks & Spencer.

The top ranked brands, according to the index, disclose all social and environmental goals, policies and procedures, remediation processes, address spotlight issues and will be publishing detailed supplier lists that include manufacturers and processing facilities.

Online retailer Asos and denim-focused brands like Levi’s Strauss & Co., Wrangler, G-Star and Pull & Bear ranked on the index’s second tier. The index noted that Asos is the only brand on the list publishing where they source raw materials, with 90 percent of its fibers from major suppliers like Lenzing and Aditya Birla.

However, Fashion Revolution found that even the highest scoring brands on the list still have a long way to go towards being transparent. The average score brands achieved was 52 out of 250 points, 21 percent of the total possible points. None of the companies on the list scored above 60 percent and just 10 brands scored higher than 50 percent.

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At the bottom of the index, Jessica Simpson, Desigual, Nine West and Barney’s New York were highlighted for disclosing “next to nothing,” while Dior, Heilan Home and s.Oliver scored 0 because the companies disclose nothing at all.

Carry Somers, Fashion Revolution co-founder, said, “Those brands who know how to use the tools of transparency to navigate a new course, will be the ones who will survive. These are the companies who are able to spot any unauthorised suppliers being used to make their products; the ones who are managing and mitigating risks that might lead to human rights and environmental abuses; the ones who are protecting their brand’s reputation.”

On the upside, Fashion Revolution found that 16 brands are disclosing “significantly” more, including The North Face, Wrangler, Esprit, Primark, Loft, New Balance and Lululemon.

Though the global denim supply chain met last week in Amsterdam to discuss best practices for delivering transparency, the index indicates that some efforts are taking shape. Denim brands were among the highest scoring companies for traceability—the area that Fashion Revolution has seen the most improvement since last year’s report. G-Star and Gap Inc. scored comparatively well because they disclose supplier lists that include detailed information about the types of products and services each supplier provides and the number of workers in each facility.

Moving forward, Fashion Revolution urges brands and retailers to take immediate steps to disclose their supplier lists in searchable formats, improve their sustainability and CSR communications, to publish direct contact details for their CSR departments and to answer customers’ questions and request on social media with specific supplier information.

In doing so, companies may learn from one another. “We think it might be interesting for brands and retailers to see how they compare to each other in terms of public disclosure of supply chain information and social and environmental policies,” the report stated.