Non-profit organisation Remake has updated its approach to holding the industry accountable. The new brand assessment criteria, put together in its just published “Remake 2021 Fashion Accountability Report” enables companies to score up to 150 points and moves beyond celebrating ambitious but hollow goals and targets. It focuses on six key criteria: environmental justice, governance, traceability, commercial practices, raw materials and wages and wellbeing.
With the help of 14 labor rights professionals, professors of human rights, employment, fashion and law and leading experts in the fields of sustainability, environmental justice, and circular economy, Remake measured 60 fashion companies according to adherence to the aforementioned criteria and concrete action and progress.
New assessment rewards concrete action and progress
“Rather than applauding companies for material innovations and business as usual, our new methodology rewards companies with resilient and regenerative business models,” sums up Remake the new approach. The non-profit summed up key findings in all six areas.
The good news first: “We were heartened to see an increase in companies sharing Tier 1, and to a lesser extent, Tier 2 and raw material suppliers,” says Remake in its report. “However, beyond location data there is a lack of information on wages, incidents of gender-based violence and other violations in apparel factories. We see an urgent need for transparency on commercial practices, as they are the root cause of many of fashion’s impacts.”
Raw materials practices also are not there yet: “While heartening to see a smattering of companies investing in regenerative agriculture, overall we saw a lack of urgency in divesting from virgin polyester, which is sourced from fossil fuels,” is the conclusion.
Small companies scored better
In terms of companies, Remake comes to the conclusion that it is about prices: “Big box and discounters like Ross, TJX and Walmart got the lowest scores, faring worse than fast fashion, putting commercial practices sharply in focus. Small and medium-sized companies like Eileen Fisher, Mud Jeans, Nisolo, and Reformation did four times better than big companies, with some moving towards true circularity, away from fossil fuels, and focusing on raising wages.”
When it comes to circularity, the non-profit sadly found that it is mostly marketing, rather than a systems-change strategy: “Linear and circular production are currently operating in parallel, with no company able to demonstrate that their total environmental impact is going down.”
Much improvement needed in terms of climate change and living wages
Efforts are also disheartening when it comes to environmental justice and especially climate change. “We applaud the uptake of science-based targets by a majority of companies but saw few companies address climate’s impacts with an intersectional lens. Additionally, there was little to no data showing progress on Scope 3 emissions, which is where the bulk of the industry’s impact lies. Moreover, there was a dearth of incentives baked in for suppliers to decarbonise and support companies’ climate goals,” is Remake’s verdict.
Last but not least, Remake assessed that inequity is on the rise: “Whether models, retailers or garment makers, the industry has not made demonstrable progress toward living wages to fashion’s workers. With some inroads in recruitment of marginalised communities, there need to be more investments in retention strategies.” In fact, the sad conclusion is that “no fashion brand or retailer pays a majority of its workers a living wage”.
Among the 60 assessed fashion companies were Forever 21 (score in brackets; -13), Mothercare (-9), JC Penney (-8), Lululemon (-3), Walmart (-1), Amazon (2), Shein (5), Gap Inc. (6), C&A (10), Bestseller (12), PVH (12), Primark (13), Allbirds (15), VF Corporation (15), Stella McCartney (17), Zalando (18), Fast Retailing (24), Inditex (24), Adidas (25), Nike (25), Patagonia (27), Gucci (35), H&M Group (39), Veja (52), Mud Jeans (55), Eileen Fisher (56) and Nisolo (83), with the last three being the top scorers.
Among the experts working on the assessment were Mark Anner, professor of labor and employment relations, and political science at Penn State University and Remake board member; Rebecca Burgess, executive director at Fibershed; Sarah Dudash, professor of law at Rutgers Law School; Anna Heaton, fibre and materials lead: animal materials at the Textile Exchange; Jeremy Lardeau, vice president, Higg Index of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition; Lewis Perkins, president, Apparel Impact Institute; and Whitney McGuire, co-founder of Sustainable Brooklyn.