The fashion industry still has a “long way to go” when it comes to tackling global inequality and the climate crisis. That is the conclusion that Fashion Revolution made based on the latest edition of the annual Fashion Transparency Index. With an average score of 26 percent, only 2 percent higher than last year, fashion brands made "impressive progress" according to Fashion Revolution.
There were steps in the right direction. For example, more than half (52 percent) of the 250 major brands surveyed publicly disclosed their list of top-tier suppliers, a notable shift from 32 of 100 brands (32 percent) in the first edition of the index in 2017.
Another milestone was that a luxury brand is among the top-scoring brands for the first time. With an average score of 80 percent (an increase of 21 percent compared to last year), Gucci came in second place. Besides Gucci, the four biggest climbers this year are all luxury brands: Armani, Jil Sander, Miu Miu and Prada. A welcome development, after the luxury fashion sector, according to Fashion Revolution, lingered for years in the field of transparency. “This shows that major steps in transparency are achievable if the will is there,” the report stated.
Also, for the first time in seven years, two of the 250 major fashion brands scored 80 percent or higher. Of all brands, OVS scored the highest with 83 percent, followed by Gucci. Among the 18 brands that scored zero percent were Max Mara, Mexx, Savage x Fenty and Tom Ford. All in all, 71 of the 250 brands (28 percent) scored between zero and ten percent, a slight improvement on last year's 31 percent.
Fashion Revolution: Majority supply chain and production volumes remain unknown
Fashion Revolution also addressed inequality in the industry as a problem with the research. Tax evasion, on-demand purchasing and the growing pay gap between CEOs and blue collar workers each fuel this inequality in their own way, according to the organisation.
To meet direct-to-consumer (D2C) on-demand models, fashion brands would increasingly choose to pre-place very small order quantities with suppliers. According to Fashion Revolution, this is a volatile and unpredictable way of purchasing, which puts suppliers at risk and puts employees under enormous pressure, the report emphasises.
On tax evasion, it goes on to say that with less than half (45 percent) of major fashion brands publishing their responsible tax strategy, “it is critical for governments to implement a tax system to address current loopholes and ensure multinational companies pay their fair share.”
Finally, the vast majority (99 percent) of the major fashion brands surveyed still do not disclose how many employees in their supply chains receive a living wage.
Overproduction, one of the biggest problems in the fashion industry, which is reflected in the waste mountain in the Atacama desert , is also discussed. Almost all brands do not disclose their annual production volumes (88 percent). This number has even increased compared to last year, when this still concerned 85 percent of the brands.
Fashion Revolution did note, however, that brands have tightened their due diligence requirements in the social and environmental field with the advent of extended producer responsibility (EPR). The performance on all due diligence indicators for human rights and the environment has thus improved compared to last year. Disclosure of how brands consult stakeholders increased from 26 percent last year to 37 percent.
Disclosure of key environmental risks and violations also increased from 26 to 37 percent. However, only six and seven percent of major fashion brands made fuel used in the production of their clothing and what the test results of their waste water were.
‘One hundred percent transparency is just a starting point’
Liv Simpliciano, policy and research manager at Fashion Revolution, is critical of the results. "As an activist, it is maddening to have to constantly insist on what is ultimately the bare minimum of what we should expect from major fashion brands. The unimpressive progress in this area is alarming given rising social inequality, environmental destruction and several new legislations. We are happy that a minority of brands finally score 80 percent or higher, but even 100 percent transparency is just the starting point and it seems that many major fashion brands have not even entered the competition yet.”
This article originally appeared on FashionUnited.NL. Translation and edit by: Rachel Douglass.