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Sportswear takes the lead in transparency

Sportswear and outdoor brands including Adidas, Reebok and Patagonia have been ranked the most transparent fashion brands in the annual Fashion Transparency Index.

The index, which is compiled by the Fashion Revolution campaign group, scores the world’s largest fashion businesses according to how much information they disclose about their sustainability practices.

Adidas, Reebok and Patagonia topped the index, each scoring 64%. Esprit and H&M scored in the 61%-70% bracket, but below the leaders. C&A, Asos, Puma, Nike, Converse, The North Face, Timberland, Vans and Marks & Spencer all scored 51%-60%.

This year marks the first occasion that any brand has scored above 60% for its transparency. Speaking at the launch of the index, Carry Somers, founder of Fashion Revolution, noted that the pursuit of transparency was the first step towards achieving wide scale changes.

“Exploitation thrives in hidden places, and we believe that transparency leads to accountability,” she said. “The fashion industry of the future will involve weaving truth and value into our clothing.”

Stefan Seidel, head of corporate sustainability at Puma, which scored 58% on the index, agreed: “Transparency is a key enabler for creating positive impacts. We have to be honest about what we have achieved and what still needs to be done. Trust is in high demand”

Retailers are scored on their transparency across five key areas: policy and commitments, governance, traceability, supplier assessment and remediation, also referred to as Know, Show, Fix, and spotlight issues. Spotlight issues for 2019 related to sustainable development goals, and included information on work towards gender equality and climate action.

The list has been published since 2016, and this year examined 200 companies with a turnover of $500m (£384.25m) or above. The 2018 index ranked 150 companies, and the 2017 index ranked 98 companies.

While the average score for retailers remained steady at 21%, Sarah Ditty, policy director for Fashion Revolution, noted that they had seen a “marked improvement” in the transparency efforts of the 98 retailers that have been part of the index since 2017 – with an 8.9% increase in the average score.

Supply chain traceability recorded significant progress – with 70 out of the 200 retailers publishing details of their tier-one manufacturers, up from 55 companies doing so in 2018.

The companies improving their rating the most from 2018 were Dior (22%), Sainsbury’s Tu (21%), Nike (21%), New Balance (18%) and Marc Jacobs (17%). 

However, Ditty stressed that there was still a lot of work to be done: “Detailed information about the outcomes and impacts of their efforts is still lacking. There are still far too many big brands lagging behind. Major brands are disclosing very little information and data about their purchasing practices, which means that we still don’t have visibility into what brands are doing to be responsible business partners to their suppliers.”

The report highlighted that brands disclose very little information about efforts to empower women and girls in the workforce, with little information about how brands address gender based labour violations in garment factories.

Additionally, while 55% of brands ranked publish their annual carbon footprint – only 19.5% disclose the carbon emissions of their supply chain.

The index also criticised brands for failing to disclose their own commitments to being responsible business partners to their suppliers. Only 9% of brands disclose a formal process for gathering supplier feedback on the company’s purchasing practices and just 6.5% of brands publish a policy of paying their suppliers within 60 days.

Five brands included in the index scored zero points, meaning they disclose no information at all on their sustainability credentials. These were Elie Tahari, Jessica Simpson, Mexx, Tom Ford and Chinese menswear brand Younger.

In the wake of the report, Fashion Revolution is pushing for businesses to publicly disclose manufacturers and suppliers in an accessible format, publish more information on social and environmental practices across the supply chain, publish contact details of sustainability and compliance teams, share more information on purchasing practices and disclose more environmental data relating to supply chain practices, as well as information of efforts to improve this area.

The Fashion Transparency Index is released annually during Fashion Revolution week. Set up in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013, the week-long campaign encourages consumers to ask brands #whomademyclothes across social media.

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