Fashion Industry Still Falls Short in Transparency — But Here Are the Brands Doing It Right

The fashion industry continues to fall short in transparency as the coronavirus pandemic casts a spotlight on the sector’s need for more progress.

According to the 2020 Fashion Transparency index from nonprofit group Fashion Revolution, the majority of 250 of the world’s most prominent fashion players still don’t disclose much of their social and environmental policies and the impacts of their operations and supply chains.

The annual report — the organization’s fifth — is notable this year due to its release during the COVID-19 crisis, which has exposed some big-name companies’ purchasing practices and policies, which labor groups claim are vague and inadequate. Although the research was undertaken before the coronavirus took hold, Fashion Revolution acknowledged that the pandemic has made ethics and sustainability more pressing than ever for the industry.

“The coronavirus pandemic is proving why transparency is so vital,” the report read. “If major brands and retailers are publishing information about their business values, who their suppliers are, what supply chain policies are in place, how they do business with suppliers and their purchasing practices, then stakeholders can hold them to account for exactly the type of situation unfolding now where major brands are stopping and delaying payments and cancelling orders from their suppliers with little regard for how this will affect the livelihoods of workers across the supply chain.”

That’s not to say there hasn’t already been some improvement: There are fewer low-scoring brands this year compared with 2019; about 28% of brands scored 10% or less in 2020, versus the prior year’s 36% The higher the score (out of 100%), the more transparent the business, according to Fashion Revolution, which awards points for information that has been publicly disclosed on the brand or parent company’s website.

What’s more, while high-street brands are leading on transparency, luxury brands are also improving. Gucci was the highest-scoring luxury brand at 48% (up from 40% in 2019) and is the only brand to score 100% on policy and commitments — one of the 220 indicators used for the index, other indicators include animal welfare, biodiversity, climate, forced labor, gender equality, waste and working conditions.

Overall, H&M, Patagonia and Adidas were among the world’s most transparent fashion brands. While H&M (73% in the index) and Adidas (69%) have ranked in the top five for four consecutive years, Patagonia (60%) has made the list for the second year in a row. VF Corp.’s brands Vans, The North Face and Timberland (59%) as well as Puma (57%), Asos (55%) and Nike (55%) were among those that rounded out the top 10 scores in 2020.

“As people are forced to stay at home and retail stores are closed around the world, the demand for clothing has plummeted since the start of the year,” added the report. “It is causing people to reassess and reprioritize what they spend money on.”

The index launched as part of Fashion Revolution Week — a series of events established to commemorate the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013, which killed 1,134 people in Bangladesh’s capital city.

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