Transparency Index


Last updated: August 2017




Pushing for Transparency


Sarah Ditty, Head of policy at Fashion Revolution, on the transparency index and how companies still have much to do to improve their supply chains


In April, Fashion Revolution published the Fashion Transparency Index 2017, which researched and ranked 100 of the biggest global fashion brands by how transparent they are when it comes to their social and environmental activities and impacts.


image: Transparency graph


The average score for all brands was 49 out of 250, less than 20% of the total possible points. Even the fashion brands that came out in the highest range of scoring – adidas, Marks & Spencer and H&M – have a long way to go towards being transparent about their suppliers and the effects of their business practices.

For Fashion Revolution, transparency means public disclosure of brands’ policies and procedures, measurable goals and progress, and real-world impacts on workers, communities and the environment.



How do consumers know what they’re buying into?


We believe that consumers have the right to know if they are unwittingly using their money to support exploitation, human rights abuses and environmental destruction. This is why transparency is so important and why we are encouraging people to ask the brands they wear “who made my clothes?”.

We believe this simple question encourages brands and retailers to be more transparent, enabling greater accountability and eventually a change in the way business is done so that in future everything we wear will be made in a much more ethical and sustainable way.



How we rate the companies


The Fashion Transparency Index uses a ratings methodology to benchmark brands’ and retailers’ disclosure across five key areas: policy and commitments, governance, traceability, supplier assessment and remediation, and ‘spotlight issues’ covering their business models, living wages, unions and collective bargaining.

The public disclosure of critical supply chain information can be useful for both companies and others (NGOs, unions, academics, producers, consumers, journalists) to ensure greater accountability for working and environmental conditions in the places where our clothes are made. Transparency allows civil society to hold brands to account for their impacts but it can also help brands find out about labour violations much more swiftly than their usual annual audits.

This is why we are looking for disclosure not only on brands’ policies and procedures, which is perhaps not as risky for them to share, but also on performance and progress across the business and supply chain, information which may be more difficult to measure or may reveal some unsavoury issues.



Transparent policies, opaque performance


While we are seeing brands widely share their policies and commitments, they score far fewer points when you dive into detail about what they do and the effects of their supply chain efforts. 

For example, 84% of brands describe their established supplier assessment policies and procedures. However, on average brands score just 21% when it comes to disclosing the detailed results of their supplier assessments and score 20% on average when it comes to sharing detailed supplier remediation activities.

This gives us a glimpse at how much crucial information about the practices of the fashion industry remains concealed.



More brands and retailers are disclosing their suppliers


The good news is that an increasing number of fashion brands are disclosing their factory lists publicly – in large part thanks to recent campaigning from the ‘Follow the Thread’ initiative, Changing Markets, War On Want and others.

When we first published the Fashion Transparency Index with Ethical Consumer in April 2016, we looked at 40 leading global fashion brands and found that only five brands (adidas, Converse, H&M, Levi Strauss & Co and Nike) published a list of their manufacturers and only two (adidas and H&M) published the names and addresses of sub-contractors or fabric/yarn suppliers. 


Image: Increasing transparency


This year, 32 of the 100 brands included in the Fashion Transparency Index are publishing a list of where their clothes are cut, sewn and trimmed. 14 of the 100 brands are publishing the processing facilities where clothes are dyed, printed, finished, laundered and otherwise processed. No brand is publishing their raw materials suppliers, so there’s no way for consumers to know where their cotton, wool, leather or other materials come from.



A long way to go towards living wages


Meanwhile only 34 of the 100 brands have made a public commitment to paying fair living wages to workers in the supply chain, and only four brands are reporting on progress towards achieving this aim. This shows that much more needs to be done, and faster, by brands to ensure that workers, from farm to retail, are paid fairly.

When it comes to brands’ environmental impact, very few are disclosing their efforts to reduce consumption of resources and extend the life of their products.

Only three brands – Burberry, Gucci and Levi Strauss & Co. – are promoting product repair services, while just 14 brands disclose investments in circular resources with the aim of keeping materials from clogging up our landfills.



Information is too hard to find


The other major learning from our transparency research is just how difficult it is – if it’s not entirely impossible – to find the right information about the brands and products we buy.

You may have to trawl through a 300+ page jargon-filled report or dive deep into a brand’s website, often many clicks away from the homepage or housed on an entirely different microsite, to try to figure out what brands are doing and how they’re performing on social and environmental issues. 

It would be helpful if there was one common template by which brands disclosed their social and environmental policies, practices and performance, and if this template used easy-to-understand language and visuals.

Without one universal reporting framework, brands will continue to disclose only selected information and in whatever format they determine best. 



Keep on asking #whomademyclothes


We hope that the Fashion Transparency Index inspires consumers to scrutinise the brands they buy and to consider the impacts their clothing has on the environment and the people working in the supply chain. 

To keep pushing for more transparency, we encourage readers to take a photo of your clothing label, contact the fashion brands you wear and ask them #whomademyclothes. If the brand doesn’t respond, keep asking. Power is in persistence.

An industry insider told us that for every customer that contacted them to ask #whomademyclothes, they took this to represent 10,000 people wondering the same thing but who couldn’t be bothered to ask. Your voice does matter.


Image: Who Made My Clothes


We also hope that the Fashion Transparency Index sends a strong signal to governments that there’s an urgent need for better laws and regulations, which require and enforce greater transparency and accountability from big brands.

Through researching and publishing the Fashion Transparency Index year on year, we hope it will gradually push brands and retailers towards much greater levels of transparency, resulting in a fundamental positive shift in the way the fashion industry works.







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