How will can we promote transparency, accountability and governance in the fashion industry?

By Millie Baker

How can we make reporting environmental standards and social impact in fashion supply chains more transparent and strengthen the systems that support this? Customers, investors, and regulators are increasingly demanding verifications and accountability from fashion companies. Environmental and social impact need to be central to a company’s governance alongside profit, as well as democratisation and diversification of a company’s governing structure. This promotes commercial resilience as the interests of all stakeholders will be reflected in business operations, plans and vision.

Hosted by Safia Minney, MBE, the Fashion Declares panel was a mix of industry experts and leading brands including Tom Berry, FARFETCH; Maeve Galvin, Fashion Revolution, Fashion Transparency Index; Shameek Ghosh, TrusTrace; Gordon Renouf, Good On You; Abbie Morris, Compare Ethics.

On introducing the context of the climate crisis, Safia discussed how ‘the impact of the climate crisis and is so unfairly distributed. The global South which is responsible for only 8% of GHG emissions bears the brunt of more than 88% of the effects of climate collapse.’ We have seen this in the devastating flooding in Pakistan, and Munib Nawaz, a fashion designer from Pakistan shared his insights and experiences in light of this catastrophe. Munib spoke on the heightened sense of responsibility he has as a fashion brand – and how he is transitioning his supply chains away from leather –  and how the crisis is calling us to rethink the most important things that sustain us, undervalued by our current economic system – our home, Planet Earth. We are being called to reinvent business and the way we think about our connection with nature and each other.

Maeve Galvin – Fashion Revolution, Fashion Transparency Index

Fashion Revolution’s flagship project, The Fashion Transparency Index is designed to monitor how transparent brands are about their environmental and human impacts. Currently monitoring 250 of the world’s largest brands. Maeve explained that ‘by brands increasing their transparency, that obviously opens up more scrutiny for more accountability and therefore change.’

 

‘Overall progress is still too slow,’ 24% being the average score. ‘85% of brands still do not disclose their annual production volumes,’ meaning that it does not appear that the reduction in production is being addressed at a serious level. Further, ‘96% of brands still do not publish the number of workers in their supple chains who are paid a living wage…which shows there is still resistance around this issue.’ In order to address this, Fashion Revolution have introduced a new campaign called Good Clothes Fair Pay, compelling the European Commission to introduce an EU law on living wage due diligence in fashion supply chains.

Shameek Ghosh – TrusTrace

TrusTrace is a digital platform for product traceability and supply chain transparency. Shameek highlighted that ‘traceability is a tool, not an end.’ There are more and more rules and regulations coming in, and TrusTrace helps fashion brands to break to break down their suppliers, product impact and take action. TrusTrace is a tool for brands to discover their sub-suppliers at tiers 1, 2 and 3. ‘It is very critical when you are improving your sustainability performance that you use more low-impact and sustainable materials.’ Shameek reminded the audience.

zoom screenshot governance and transparency

Abbie Morris – Compare Ethics

‘Good governance is about a move from the concept of shareholder capitalism to stakeholder capitalism, and when we think about that we need to include our planet and the people that work directly for us and across the value chain.’

 

Abbie continued to speak on the recent shift from regulators cracking down on green claims. There is an increasing interest ‘from the financial markets, also picking up on this.’ This is due to ‘the role of anti-greenwashing regulations and the failure to substantiate claims and have a clear strategy on ESG.’ More widely from an investment perspective, ‘even the private market investors are increasingly including ESG due diligence parameters as part of any investment thesis.’

 

‘The regulatory landscape is moving fast,’ Abbie noted. Compare Ethics is an AI platform which supports compliance at scale, developing a methodology that focusses on environment, social and governance impact, looking at data quality across brands supply chains and telling brands what they can say with it.

Gordon Renouf – Good On You

Gordon spoke on the role of consumer agency as an essential driving factor in the green transition, alongside regulation. ‘As consumers we have a right to make choices that align with our values, and that’s what drives the demand for transparency because producers have a corresponding obligation to be transparent about their production process.’

 

At Good On You, ‘our vision is a world where anyone can know the true impact of a product as easily as it’s price.’ They have built a robust rating system of fashion brands, making them available to consumers and partners. This is intended to encourage business for brands that are doing well in terms of transparency actions and take it away from brands that are not.

Tom Berry - FARFETCH

Tom detailed governance at an organisational level which is essential to achieving accountability in a company, ensuring that ‘you do what you say you will do as expected by stakeholders and regulators.’ Tom provided practical examples of governance practices in terms of ESG within FARFETCH. This includes public reporting of how FARFETCH are performing against the ESG goals they set each year.

‘Within our positively conscious pillar of work, which is about how [FARFETCH] engage with customers, and brand and boutique partners, to champion products which are better…which consider environmental and social impact and animal welfare.’ This clearly states what a more conscious product is and declares when a product meets the criteria. FARFETCH make all their reporting publicly available in order to remain as transparent and accountable as possible.

View reports here.

 

Thank you for joining the final in this Fashion Declares webinar series. All the webinars are available on YouTube, we believe them to be an extremely valuable resource due to the fantastic level of expertise our speakers brought to them.

Don’t forget to sign up to Fashion Declares on our website, and download our Fashion Industry Action Pack, another extremely detailed resource signposting to many other initiatives on the scene and proving materials that champion our mission of a fair and regenerative fashion future.