The UK-based grassroots campaign launched to commemorate the lives lost in the Rana Plaza building collapse on Apr. 24, 2013, published its first Fashion Transparency Index Monday in partnership with Ethical Consumer magazine, and timed with the start of Fashion Revolution Week.
The index ranks companies based on the level of transparency in their supply chain, factoring in five key areas: policy and commitment; tracking and traceability; audits and remediation; engagement and collaboration; and governance.
According to the report, 40 percent of the 40 biggest global fashion brands (by annual turnover) surveyed don’t have a system in place to monitor compliance with labor standards. Only 11 of the 40 companies showed evidence of working with trade unions or NGOs to improve working conditions.
“Lack of transparency costs lives,” Fashion Revolution co-founder Carry Somers said. “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.” If you can’t see it, you don’t know it’s going on and you can’t fix it, the report continued.
A mere three brands had a top rating (between 76 and 100 percent)—Levi Strauss & Co, Inditex and H&M. The average score for the brands was 42 percent.
Levi’s topped the list with a score of 77 percent thanks to high marks in policy and commitments, audits and remediations and governance.
Inditex was the only company to score a perfect 100 percent in any category, for governance. The Spanish parent company of Zara scored high in audits and remediations, too.
“All three companies scored well as they are doing more than most other brands to communicate publicly about their supply chain practices and that they seem to have many robust systems in place for tracking, tracing, monitoring and improving labor and environmental practices across the supply chain,” Fashion Revolution said in a statement.
Chanel ranked the worst with a score of 10 percent, with Hermes, Forever 21 and LVMH following close behind. Fashion Revolution said luxury brands have “much more work to do.”
Only five of the brands—Adidas, H&M, Levi’s, Nike (which includes Converse)—publish lists of all or most of their cut-make-trim suppliers, and only Adidas and H&M publish details of their second-tier suppliers like fabric and yarn mills, or subcontractors.
Half of the companies either have nothing in place to track where raw materials are coming from, or aren’t disclosing so publically, and 20 percent have no commentary on how they work to remediate non-compliant factories.
The public doesn’t have enough information about where and how their clothes are made, Somers said, and shoppers have the right to know that their money isn’t going to support human rights abuses or environmental destruction.
“How do we as consumers know that we aren’t supporting ISIS or slave labor with the next cotton garment we buy?” Sommers posed, noting recent news that the Islamic State has taken over three-quarters of Syria’s cotton fields. “There is no way to hold companies and governments to account if we can’t see what is truly happening behind the scenes. This is why transparency is so essential.”
The hope for the index is that it will encourage consumers to contact their favorite brands to encourage greater communication about policies, practices and the people making their clothes, even use the hashtag #whomademyclothes on social media.
From April 18-24, as part of Fashion Revolution Week, a social media campaign with the hashtag #whomademyclothes will encourage manufacturers to post pictures of the factory workers who clothe the world. Events will take place in the 89 participating countries around ideas like upcycling and fair fashion.