All clear? Not yet, says 2018's Fashion Transparency Index



It’s five years since Rana Plaza, an ordinary garment factory in Bangladesh collapsed, killing 1,138 and injuring many more.

The fact that those killed had been employed making cheap clothes for Western markets and that they had, until the day of the accident, been asking not to go into a building  known for its instability, turned the incident – tragic, unjust, avoidable – into a wake up call.

The response was Fashion Revolution, the world’s largest fashion activism movement, founded to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and purchased and to demand systemic reform of the industry. The raising of awareness has been significant - last year alone, 2 million people across the world got involved in events and campaigns - but the way fashion is made, sourced and consumed continues to cause suffering and pollution on horrific scales. Fashion Revolution believes that this needs to change. 

The first step is transparency - in practice and in information. Transparency means that brands are open about where and how their clothes are made and who by. Not all - maybe not much at all - of this will be great but acknowledging problems is the first step to the solution. 

Transparent disclosure makes it easier for brands, suppliers and workers, trade unions and NGOs to understand what went wrong when human rights and environmental abuses occur, who is responsible and how to fix it.

The third edition of the Fashion Transparency Index is published today, the first day of Fashion Revolution Week 2018 : a list of 150 of the world’s biggest global fashion brands and retailers with how much information they share about five key issues: policy and commitments, governance, traceability, know show and fix and spotlight issues.

Can a set of facts and figures help solve endemic problems? Just ask Nazma Akter, Bangladeshi trade unionist and former children worker: “If unions and workers have a list of where brands are manufacturing, it is so much easier to resolve problems quickly. We can address issues directly with brands. Everyone should be more transparent. Everyone needs to respect and trust each other and work together with openness and honesty.”

In the report, Adidas and Reebok scored highest followed by Puma, H&M, Esprit, Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy, C&A and Marks & Spencer scoring in the 51 to 60 per cent out of a possible 250 points. ASOS came shortly behind the top ten, having significantly increased its level of disclosure - by 18 per cent - since last year. 

However, many online and high street favourites scored less than 10%, including Amazon, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Forever 21, Claire’s Accessories, Matalan, Foot Locker, Sports Direct, Calzedonia, Sainsbury’s Tu Clothing, Triumph and Monsoon/Accessorize - showing that there's still lots of work to be done. Here are some of the key figures.

Photo: Claudio Montesano Castillas

Photo: Claudio Montesano Castillas

5%: the overall improvement in transparency levels amongst the original 100 brands. 

10: the number of top global fashion brands that have become more transparent.

12: the number of brands - including Dior, Longchamp and Sandro - who disclose next to nothing. Overall, luxury moves slowly. 

21%: the overall average score amongst the 150 brands and retailers (or 52 out of a 250 possible points). One per cent more than last year …. 

37%: the percentage of brands publishing a list of their manufacturers, up from 32% last year. This represents the most significant and positive increase in transparency. These suppliers lists - which contain factory street addresses and number of workers - have also become a lot more detailed.

40%: percentage of brands publishing a policy on equal pay both for their own employees and in their supply chain. 

58%: the percentage by which Adidas and Reebok topped the Index again this year. 

62%: the percentage of brands, up from 40% last year, that are disclosing their process fo fixing problems when violations are found in a supplier facility. 

65: the number of brands and retailers including The North Face, Timberland and Wrangler who scored above the average score of 21% or higher, 22 more than last year. Good news.

76%: percentage of brands publishing a policy on discrimination. 

84%: the percentage of brands that have increased their score since last year.

90%: the amount of fibres produced for ASOS products from major suppliers Lenzing and Aditya Biria. Why is this important? Because ASOS is the only brand publishing where it sources raw materials and where raw materials come from matters.

The fall of Rana Plaza shook the world. Picture: via rijans Flickr CC

The fall of Rana Plaza shook the world. Picture: via rijans Flickr CC