Fashion Revolution was set up in response to the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, the fourth largest industrial disaster in history. A building collapse killed 1134 people, mostly young women, working in garment factories. Fashion Revolution is the world’s largest fashion activism movement with a vision of “a global fashion industry that conserves and restores the environment and values people over growth and profit.” It is a non-profit organisation representing both the industry and public. It seeks to achieve cultural, industry and policy change. It sees transparency as a first step in enabling stakeholders, including consumers, to hold brands to account for the human rights and environmental impacts of their practices. Since 2015 Fashion Revolution has produced an annual Fashion Transparency Index (FTI).
In their 2020 FTI (see here), Fashion Revolution reviewed and ranked 250 of the world’s largest – and therefore most damaging – fashion brands and retailers including several online companies. It considers 220 indicators covering areas including animal welfare, biodiversity, chemicals, climate, forced labour, gender equality, waste, recycling and working conditions. It finds that the majority of companies continue to lack transparency with 54% scoring 20% or less (100% is the best score). Some, including the major high street label Mexx, disclose nothing. More positively, there is evidence that participation in the FTI is influencing brands to increase disclosure. The index shows that, while there has been encouraging progress on disclosing supplier information, there continues to be a lack of transparency on living wages for workers in the supply chain. Transparency, especially in terms of purchasing practices, is particularly important during the current pandemic to hold brands accountable for their treatment of suppliers (read here). The fate of clothes unsold due to lockdown is of particular concern; only 18% of brands explain what they are doing to develop circular solutions that enable recycling. While 78% of brands publish a policy on energy use and carbon emissions, only 16% have emission targets aligned with the Paris Agreement. Only 16% publish annual carbon emissions associated with their supply chains where most climate impact occurs. FTI data are publicly available on wikirate.org.
H&M (H&M Group) 73%
The North Face/Timberland/Vans/Wrangler (VF Corp) 59%
Converse/Jordan/Nike (Nike Inc) 55%
Elie Tahari 0%
Heilan Home 0%
Jessica Simpson 0%
Max Mara 0%
Pepe Jeans 0%
Tom Ford 0%
REAL has spoken to Fashion Revolution’s Sarah Ditty and Ilishio Lovejoy. In terms of response to the FTI, there have been over 280,000 downloads since 2017. Discussions with a number of brands suggest they are keen to improve their ranking and are tasking relevant teams to take action. Ilishio has been contacted by financial investors wanting to use the FTI as a due diligence tool. As things stand, a company’s transparency efforts do not necessarily correlate to their social and environmental impact, although clearly being more open incentivises better performance. Sarah suggested that to look at brands’ social and environmental footprint would require working with a coalition of NGOs on the ground and significantly greater funding. NGOs have found that garment workers in factories with wage disclosure are paid more than those without disclosure. Fashion Revolution updates the methodology annually to ensure that it continues to act as a driver of industry best practise. There is likely to be greater emphasis on key issues such as living wage, workers’ rights, climate and purchasing practices. It may also include something on tax transparency.
REAL is a community interest company that aims to support citizens and organisational leaders to transition to carbon zero and sustainability, founded by Safia Minney & friends.