If you’re reading this, chances are you have a love for fashion and style. But have you wondered what’s behind those shiny new shoes and luxurious trousers? Some of the top fashion brands have been proven to fail most of the environmental and ethical standards in their production. In fact, the ranking of most of these big names in the fashion industry will shock you.
These rankings can be seen in the Fashion Transparency Index, which was produced by UK-based Fashion Revolution in collaboration with Ethical Consumer, a research co-operative aimed at promoting sustainable business. This index made a thorough study of luxury and high street brands including sportswear brands with a minimum annual turnover of AUD 66million (USD 48.5million).
Brands like H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., and Inditex were the highest ranking brands for “doing more than other brands in publicly communicating about their supply chain practices”. According to the report, these brands have a healthy system in place to track, monitor, and improve their labor and environmental practices throughout their supply chain. Levi Strauss & Co. was the top-ranking brand scoring 77% in the transparency index. Both Inditex and H&M scored just one point lower at 76%.
Among the brands with high to middle ratings were Adidas, Primark, GAP, PVH, Nike, Converse, Uniqlo, Gildan Activewear, and American Eagle. They scored somewhere between 51% and 75% in the transparency index. The report mentioned that these companies are doing a bit more than others in having policies and commitments in place along with auditing and reporting activities. They do make some good efforts in monitoring standards but also lack in several areas. They do offer transparency in supply chain but only to an extent.
While we see plenty of the top high-street and sportswear brands scoring highly, it seems like brands in the high fashion industry are being the worst performers. The ratings of these companies ranged from 0-25%. Chanel scored the lowest in the transparency index with a total score of just 10%. In fact, the fashion house didn’t score at all in policy and commitment, tracking and traceability, engagement and collaboration, and governance.
Hermes and Claire’s Accessories came second from last with a total score of 17%. Forever21, Fendi, and LVMH were next with a rating of 19% each. LVMH is the company that handles production of designs from brands like Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Kenzo, Louis Vuitton, Emilio Pucci, Dior, Givenchy, Celine, and several more. Other companies with low ratings were Monsoon Accessorize, Prada, Michael Kors, Aeropostale, and Under Armour from lowest to highest.
According to the report, these low-ranking brands had little to no information available to the public about their supply chain practices. Although they have a Code of Conduct in place, this would have been enough in the 1900s. Nowadays, there has been significant evolution in Corporate Responsibility, which requires that these companies make improvements in all aspects of their operations.
A majority of companies that were studied seemed to have a low to middle rating, which is somewhere between 26% and 50%. Ralph Lauren, Polo Ralph Lauren, Gucci, Victoria’s Secret, ASOS, New look, URBN, Mango, Topshop, Burberry, Next, and Abercrombie & Fitch were among these companies. The report mentioned that these companies are making some effort to manage and improve their supply chain. However, there isn’t much information about their supply chain available for the public. They have a long way to go in terms of supply chain transparency.
The report also noted that these companies need to make improvement in terms of auditing and reporting, engagement and collaboration, tracking and traceability, and governance. Other companies in this lot are Hugo Boss, J Crew, Coach, Lululemon, and Arcadia Group.
Why ethicality and transparency matters
In another ethical fashion report, brands like Zara, Uterque, Pull & Bear, and Bershka scored an A in terms of ethicality. The Ethical Fashion Guide, produced by Australia’s Baptist World Aid even gave an A+ to Etiko and Mighty Good Undies. However, some brands failed miserably and received a D+ or an F score, Victoria’s Secret and Dangerfield among them.
It’s always been speculated that most high fashion brands are the worst perpetrators when it comes to ethicality and environmental impact. The collapse of the Rana Plaza garment factory in Bangladesh a few years ago brought to light the ugly truth behind the popular brands that we buy from. The only good that came out of the event was that it became virtually impossible for companies to avoid being transparent about their supply chain.
Anyone with compassion and a conscience would find it necessary to only opt for brands that are being transparent and ethical about their production and supply chain. At the same time, you can also opt to reduce waste and preserve the environment by buying secondhand clothes or repurposing your old clothes. In fact, thrift stores are the perfect place to buy clothes that you’re only going to wear once such as a Halloween costume.
Brandon Leibowitz is a seasoned writer for global thrift retailers, Savers and Value Village. He is a frequent contributor to blogs such as Social Media Examiner, Businesss 2 Community and several others. Brandon is recognized as a strong social media influencer due to his knowledge of and dedication to the industry.
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