We Don’t Know Enough About The Impact Our Clothing Has On People And Planet, Fashion Revolution Warns
Fashion Revolution’s Transparency Index reveals that the top 100 global fashion brands still have a long way to go towards transparency
Many of the biggest global brands that make our clothes still don’t disclose enough information about their impact on the lives of workers in their supply chain and on the environment, new research reveals.
The way fashion is made, sourced and consumed continues to cause suffering and pollution. Fashion Revolution believes that this urgently needs to change and that the first step is greater transparency.
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 Fashion Transparency Index 2017, released today, reviews and ranks how much information 100 of the biggest global fashion companies publish about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts.
The research found that even the highest scoring brands on the list still have a long way to go towards being transparent. The average score brands achieved was 49 out of 250, less than 20% of the total possible points, and none of the companies on the list scored above 50%.
Adidas and Reebok achieved the highest score of 121.5 out of 250 (49% of the total possible points), followed by Marks & Spencer with 120 points and H&M with 119.5 points. However, only 8 brands scored higher than 40%, while a further 9 brands scored 4% or less out of 250 possible points, of which Dior, Heilan Home and s.Oliver scored 0 because they disclose nothing at all.
Out of the premium and luxury brands reviewed, 9 scored between 21-30% of the total possible points, which was higher than the average. The other 10 scored 15% or less.
The good news is that 31 brands are publishing supplier lists (tier 1) including ASOS, Benetton, C&A, Esprit, Gap, Marks & Spencer, Uniqlo, and VF Corporation brands since April 2016. This is an increase from last year when Fashion Revolution surveyed 40 big fashion companies and only five were publishing supplier lists. This year 14 brands are publishing their processing facilities where their clothes are dyed, laundered, printed or treated. However, no brand is publishing its raw material suppliers. Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy scored highest on traceability (44%) because their supplier list includes detailed information such as types of products or services and approximate number of workers in each supplier facility.
Meanwhile few brands disclose efforts on living wages, collective bargaining, and reducing consumption of resources (on average 9% of the information required in these categories was disclosed), sending a strong signal to brands to urgently look at their own business models and purchasing practices.
There is a long way to go in order for the industry to pay a living wage, as only 34 brands have made public commitments to paying living wages to workers in the supply chain, and only four brands — H&M, Marks & Spencer, New Look and Puma — 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.
Fashion Revolution Co-founder Carry Somers said: “People have the right to know that their money is not supporting exploitation, human rights abuses and environmental destruction. There is no way to hold companies and governments to account if we can’t see what is truly happening behind the scenes. This is why transparency is so essential.”
“Through publishing this research, we hope brands will be pushed in a more positive direction towards a fundamental shift in the way the system works, beginning with being more transparent.”
Dr. Mark Anner, Director, Centre for Global Workers’ Rights Penn State University said: “The time has come for brands and retailers to make their entire supply chains transparent. The time has also come to establish sourcing practices that are conducive to the human development and empowerment of the workers who work so hard every day to make the clothes we wear.”
Brands were awarded points based on their level of transparency across 5 categories, including: policy & commitments, governance, traceability, supplier assessment and remediation and spotlight issues which looks at living wages, collective bargaining and business model innovation. Brands were selected to represent a cross section of market segments including high street, luxury, sportswear, accessories, footwear and denim sectors.
The data revealed that:
- Policy & Commitments – overall score = 49%
The highest concentration of brands scored in the 71-80% range with 11 brands scoring between 81-90% and 16 brands scoring 20% or less. By and large, brands are disclosing the most about their policies and commitments on social and environmental issues.
- Governance – overall score = 34%
The largest number of brands (37) score 10% or less. 13 brands fall in the 41-50% range. Marks & Spencer is the only brand to score 100% meaning that they’re disclosing who in the team is responsible for social and environmental issues, along with their contact details, board level accountability, and how other staff and suppliers are incentivised to improve performance.
- Traceability – overall score = 7%
Overall brands are disclosing few details about their suppliers. 31 brands are publishing supplier lists (tier 1). 14 brands are publishing their processing facilities. No brand is publishing its raw material suppliers. 23 brands disclose having updated their supplier list at least in the past 12 months, while Target says it uploads its supplier list quarterly and ASOS promises to do so every two months.
- Know, Show & Fix – overall score = 16%
The highest concentration of brands (36) fall in the 11-20% range whilst another 31 score less than 10%. Adidas and Reebok score highest at 39%, with 7 other brands joining them in the 31-40% range. Brands often disclose their supplier assessment processes and procedures. However brands share little information about the results of their supplier assessments, and brands don’t publish much about the results of the efforts made to fix problems in factories.
- Spotlight Issues – overall score = 9%
Overall, brands are disclosing little about their efforts to pay living wages or to support collective bargaining and unionisation. Few brands are disclosing their efforts to address overconsumption of resources. Marks & Spencer, New Look and H&M scored in the 41-50% range, and no brand scored above 50%. The majority of brands scored less than 10%.
The report provides recommendations for how consumers, brands and retailers, governments and policy makers, NGOs, unions and workers can use the information contained in the Fashion Transparency Index to make a positive difference.
You can find more information at FashionRevolution.org
IFC Partners with VF Corporation and Target Corporation to Promote Manufacturing Sustainability in Vietnam’s Textile and Apparel Industry
Hanoi, Vietnam, March 15, 2016—IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is partnering with global leading apparel and footwear company VF Corporation and consumer products retailer Target Corporation to improve resource efficiency at their supplier factories in Vietnam. Under the first phase of this program, energy and water efficiency assessments will be conducted at about 30 factories over the next 12 months to help them reduce operating costs and improve productivity while contributing to the country’s green growth and climate change targets.
The textile, apparel and footwear sector is a significant contributor to Vietnam’s economy. In 2015, the sector’s exports reached $39.2 billion and generated approximately three million jobs, most of which are for women. While this sector is energy and water intensive, there are opportunities for reducing resource consumption by 20% or higher by using latest technology and good operating practices.
“With Vietnam’s increasing participation in trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the EU Free Trade Agreement, the local textile sector is poised for faster growth, creating increased demand for sustainable energy and water use practices,” said Kyle Kelhofer, IFC Country Manager for Vietnam, Cambodia and Lao PDR. “Vietnam’s textile enterprises stand to benefit from this IFC program by further access to global markets while implementing resource efficiency best practices.”
Factory assessments at VF and Target supplier factories across the textile value chain, including cut-and-sew, dyeing-and-printing and garment-washing operations, will identify and develop cost-effective measures to improve energy and water efficiency while helping suppliers improve productivity and competitiveness. In addition to providing advice for technical solutions, IFC will help facilitate financing through its partner banks in Vietnam, drawing on its substantial experience in other top textile export countries such as Bangladesh and China.
“The cooperation with IFC in Vietnam strongly complements Target’s global responsible sourcing strategy and our corporate sustainability goals for making supplier factories more resource efficient and environmentally friendly,” said Ivanka Mamic, Director for Responsible Sourcing at Target Sourcing Services, the subsidiary of Target Corporation leading sustainability efforts for the corporation.
“VF has a long history of manufacturing excellence centered on respect for the people and the environment, and we continuously explore opportunities to further scale these commitments across our global supplier base for greater impact,” said Brad van Voorhees, Senior Manager for Supply Chain Sustainability at VF Asia, a subsidiary of VF Corporation. “The collaboration with IFC and Target is a natural extension of our work and enables the collective exchange of knowledge and best practices to green the textile supply chain.”
This manufacturing sustainability initiative will promote resource efficiency by systematically assessing performance improvement opportunities, conducting benchmarking studies, sharing technology best practices, and raising sector-level awareness for broader uptake. Subsequent phases will evaluate opportunities for use of clean energy to meet captive power needs of the textile supply chain. This initiative is part of IFC’s multi-year Vietnam resource efficiency program that is implementing innovative aggregation approaches to scale-up impacts through engaging with leading global brands and their supply chains, and by intervening in selected industrial zones to promote circular economy concepts among co-located industries.
*This story first appeared on Sustainable Brands
Since 2013, Greenpeace’s “Detox” campaign against apparel companies successfully has catalyzed new approaches to eliminate hazardous chemicals from products and supply chains. It’s not just activist pressure, but also the desire within the industry to do good, that is driving the reduction of hazards in everything from children’s clothing to sportswear.
Efforts to reduce hazardous chemicals and environmental pollution in the manufacturing supply chain include the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s Higg Index, the Outdoor Industry Association’s Chemicals Management Module and the Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals’ Roadmap to Zero.
Traditionally, such efforts have centered around Restricted Substance Lists, which have been used in the textile industry since the late 1990s. They contain restricted chemicals that are usually, but not always regulated. These chemicals can be used in manufacturing and be present in consumer products, as long as the amount is not greater than the allowable limit.
The RSL is a tool to help brands meet regulatory compliance requirements and is typically implemented in three steps:
1. Establish the allowable limit in the product.
2. Train and educate manufacturers to implement the RSL.
3. Verify through product testing.
Because restricted chemicals may be used in manufacturing, there is always the possibility that hazardous chemicals may end up in discharge water.
A fundamental shift to ‘input chemistry’
Today, however, a sea change is placing greater emphasis on managing input chemistry rather than treating effluent. Hazardous chemicals are eliminated at the beginning of the supply chain before they enter the manufacturing facility. This prevents the need to clean up waste water and toxic pollution.
Some tools, such as bluesign, have been available for several years, while others are just being introduced, and some chemical companies are seizing the opportunity to lead in the marketplace.
The initiatives below are gaining wider acceptance and use:
The bluesign system is a standard for environmental health and safety in the manufacture of textiles. It was developed in Switzerland 15 years ago and is gaining momentum with chemical suppliers, manufacturers and brands.
Bluesign works with chemical suppliers to ensure their formulations meet strict requirements. Production sites are audited and a set of guidelines must be met prior to a chemical supplier selling “bluesign certified” formulations. Approved bluesign partners regularly report their continuous improvement and progress in energy, water and chemical usage, and are subject to on-site audits. Many large global chemical suppliers including Huntsman, Archroma, CHT and Dyestar are bluesign partners and produce bluesign-compliant formulations.
Bluesign chemicals are available for all stages of textile production, from spinning to garment manufacturing. This enables brands and manufacturing facilities to make smarter and safer choices.
Bluesign assesses and assigns chemicals to one of three categories:
1. Blue: safe to use
2. Gray: special handling required
3. Black: forbidden
The bluesign system helps factories manage “gray” chemicals and replace “black” chemicals with safer alternatives.
Manufacturing Restricted Substance List
An MRSL differs from a Restricted Substance List (RSL) because it restricts hazardous substances potentially used and discharged into the environment during manufacturing, not just those substances that could be present in finished products. The MRSL addresses any chemical used within the four walls of a manufacturing plant, including those used to make products and clean equipment and facilities.
The Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals group developed and published an MRSL with input from key stakeholders including brands and chemical companies. ZDHC developed one MRSL for the apparel industry. This benefits brands, manufacturers and chemical companies because they only have to adhere to a single set of criteria with the same chemical restrictions, limits and test methods.
Chemical companies are in the process of developing a list of MRSL-compliant formulations that adhere to the strict limits placed on a given chemical formulation rather than the finished product.
CHEM-IQ is a chemical management tool released by the VF Corporation. Developed in collaboration with third-party experts, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, CHEM-IQ provides a proactive, cost-effective method for identifying and eliminating potentially harmful chemicals before they enter manufacturing.
Samples from chemical formulations are tested in a lab for the presence of about 400 hazardous chemicals. If any are present above a certain limit, VF works with its supply chain to determine an action plan to move towards safer alternatives.
In addition to the tools and certification systems described above, two small textile chemical formulators, Garmon Chemicals and Beyond Surface Technologies, are also adopting a “front of the pipe” approach.
Garmon’s conscious chemistry
Innovative Italian chemical company Garmon Chemicals has taken an interesting approach in how it assesses, manages and chooses chemical ingredients in its formulations. It recently announced a partnership with Turkish mill Orta denim and Clean Production Action’s GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals.
Garmon incorporates GreenScreens into its raw materials assessment. GreenScreen chemical assessments are based on the hazard profile of a chemical rather than the risk profile. All intentionally added ingredients are screened and assigned a GreenScreen score. Chemicals scored as “Benchmark 1” (to avoid as a chemical of high concern) are not accepted in any formulation. This approach helps Garmon prioritize efforts to find safer alternatives.
The company has developed a range of specialty chemicals called “environmentally conscious chemistry” using GreenScreen as an inspiration for innovation. Garmon has positioned GreenScreen as a platform to develop products for the eco-conscious consumer who demands transparency.
Particularly impressive, Garmon has eliminated potassium permanganate and sodium hypochlorite, two cheap commodity chemicals used to bleach indigo denim. It replaced them with their Avol Oxy White, which provides a similar visual effect.
The advantages of environmentally conscious chemistry include the capability to:
1. Establish long-term partnerships across industries and co-create new capabilities.
2. Drive science and design, with the goal of developing new aesthetics.
3. Trigger healthy changes throughout the manufacturing supply chain that injects “premium” and “sustainable” and “quality” and “integrity” as operational guiding principles in the garment industry.
Beyond Surface Technologies
BST, a small and innovative chemical company, has a different approach to assessing its raw materials. It selects raw materials with either the highest possible content of bio-based carbon (PDF) or materials approved for use in the personal care or food industry, so that it does not need to worry about contaminants and impurities. If it is safe enough to eat or put on your skin, it is safe enough to be used in apparel.
As these examples indicate, the textile industry is making progress in reducing environmental pollution in the textile supply chain by focusing on the management of input chemistry. Stronger partnerships among brands, manufacturers and chemicals companies; a more rigorous approach towards the elimination of hazardous chemicals; and innovating to find safer alternatives to chemicals of concern are moving the needle towards safer consumer products within cleaner supply chains.
** This article first appeared on GreenBiz.com here.