First published 14th July. Amended 1st August.
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This is the seventh annual edition of the Fashion Transparency Index. This year, 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers were reviewed and ranked according to what information they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts, in their operations and supply chain.
This Index is a tool to push and incentivise the world’s largest fashion brands to be more transparent about their social and environmental efforts. Fashion Revolution believes that transparency is foundational to achieving systemic change in the global fashion industry, which is why we have been campaigning for it since 2014, and why we created this Index.
Transparency is a first step; it is not radical, but it is necessary. When brands publicly disclose information, it allows anyone to scrutinise their policies, hold them accountable for their claims and advocate for positive change.
Transparency is not to be confused with sustainability. However, without transparency, achieving a sustainable, accountable, and fair fashion industry will be impossible.
A lack of transparency costs lives. When the Rana Plaza building collapsed nine years ago, killing and injuring thousands of garment workers, rescuers had to dig through the rubble looking for clothing labels in order to figure out which brands were producing clothes there. It is impossible for companies to make sure human rights are respected, working conditions are safe and the environment is protected without knowing where their products are being made.
But nine years after Rana Plaza, there is still much to be done. The global fashion industry remains rife with human rights abuses and environmental degradation. Supply chains remain complex, fragmented, deregulated and opaque.
A lack of visibility of supply chains allows exploitative, unsafe working conditions and environmental damage to thrive while obscuring who has the responsibility and power to redress these issues.
Increased transparency enables workers’ rights and environmental advocates to identify, report and redress suspected abuses and helps brands and retailers to better track and manage social, environmental and governance risks that affect their business.
Progress on transparency in the global fashion industry is still too slow among 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers, with brands achieving an overall average score of just 24%, up 1% from last year.
This year’s Fashion Transparency Index reveals a lack of transparency in several crucial areas. A highlight of key findings includes:
Supply chain traceability
Gender and racial equality
Sustainable sourcing and materials
Waste and circularity
Water and chemicals
Climate change and biodiversity
The Fashion Transparency Index analyses and ranks 250 of the world’s biggest fashion brands and retailers based on their public disclosure of human rights and environmental policies, practices and impacts, in their operations and supply chains.
The Fashion Transparency Index comprises 246 indicators covering a wide range of social and environmental topics such as animal welfare, biodiversity, climate, due diligence, forced labour, freedom of association, gender equality, hazardous chemicals, living wages, purchasing practices, supplier disclosure, waste and recycling, working conditions and more.
The Fashion Transparency Index was created to:
Ultimately, the aim of the Index is not just transparency in and of itself. The aim is for this information to be used by individuals, activists, experts, worker representatives, environmental groups, policymakers, investors and even brands themselves to scrutinise what big fashion brands are doing, hold them to account and work to make change a reality.
The Fashion Transparency Index is one tool that Fashion Revolution has developed to help bring about systemic change in the industry. We also drive positive change through wider public awareness-raising and education, lobbying governments, championing small and responsible designers and building a network of activists around the world around a common vision.
We are not alone in calling for transparency. We are one voice of many spanning across civil society, including NGOs and trade unions representing supply chain workers. Please read this letter signed by 33 NGOs, including Fashion Revolution, calling for full supply chain transparency in the clothing sector.
Transparency is the public disclosure of information that enables people to hold decision-makers to account. For the fashion industry, it means sharing information about supply chains, business practices and their associated impacts on workers, communities and the environment. Transparency is crucial for connecting the dots of the problems in the fashion industry and understanding how to fix them.
Transparency is vital for holding major brands accountable for their human rights and environmental impacts across their supply chains.
We understand that citizens are seeking rankings of the ethics and sustainability of major fashion brands. But this is not what the Fashion Transparency Index is designed to do.
The Index looks at how much information major brands and retailers share about their social and environmental efforts because transparency is a necessary first step for holding them to account for their impacts.
Transparency underpins sustainability – without transparency, achieving a sustainable, accountable and fair fashion industry will be impossible.
See how transparency has been instrumental in driving social and environmental impact in the case studies and expert viewpoints throughout the report.
Being ranked highly in the Index means a major brand is comparatively more transparent than other big brands. We are not making any statement about whether a brand is ethical or sustainable.
The Fashion Transparency Index reviews brands’ public disclosure on human rights and environmental issues across 246 indicators in 5 key areas:
Brands receive points for information that has been publicly disclosed on the brand or parent company website, through self-published annual reports and via third parties where there is a link between the company’s website and the third-party disclosure.
Each year we update the methodology in consultation with more than 20 pro-bono industry experts, including workers’ rights and environmental groups, trade union representatives, academics and investors.
We have strengthened our guidance for all indicators included in the Index, with a particular focus on Section 1: Policies and Commitments and Section 5: Spotlight Issues.
We have also carried over the changes made last year, such as giving more weight to indicators which focus on outcomes on issues such as supplier audits, living wages, purchasing practices, gender and racial equality and climate and water data in the supply chain.
In light of the climate crisis, we have added new indicators on how brands and retailers identify, manage, mitigate and prevent environmental risks in their supply chain.
We have also reinstated forced labour indicators in Section 5: Spotlight Issues.
The Index format makes it easier to compare what major brands and retailers publicly disclose across a set list of social and environmental issues that we track year-on-year. It also enables major brands to see how they compare to their peers and competitors.
Ranking brands is a highly effective tool in incentivising transparency and pushes them to progressively improve public disclosure of social and environmental information.
Our ambition is that the Index will illustrate the need for stronger legislation on human rights and environmental impacts in the fashion industry, including mandatory public reporting.
The Fashion Transparency Index reviews and ranks 250 of the world’s largest and most influential fashion brands and retailers. Brands have been selected on the following basis:
As the biggest and most powerful consumer brands in the apparel industry, the brands reviewed in this Index have the most significant negative human rights and environmental impacts and the greatest responsibility to change. Where brands are privately held, we have made an educated guess regarding their size and turnover. Geographic spread is considered too.
No, brands and retailers don’t pay and cannot choose to be included in the Fashion Transparency Index.
We decide which major fashion brands and retailers are reviewed based on their annual turnover, aiming to target the world’s largest companies. We review brands whether or not they participate in the process by completing our questionnaire (which you can access here) and they are given points based entirely on information that is publicly available.
We engage major brands and retailers to achieve industry-wide change – however, we do not charge any of them for participating.
Fashion Revolution treats all major brands in the Index exactly the same. You find out more about how Fashion Revolution by reading our Ethical Funding Policy which outlines the principles that underpin from whom Fashion Revolution will accept funding.
We review the world’s largest and most profitable brands and retailers because they have the largest negative impacts on people and the planet, and therefore have the moral imperative, as well as resources, to take action.
Fashion Revolution showcases and champions smaller and more responsible brands and designers through our Fashion Open Studio initiative. These pioneering brands and designers are actively working to find solutions to the key social and environmental challenges facing the industry, from tackling studio waste to responsible production and sourcing, to finding ways to integrate their businesses with social enterprise initiatives for a mindful, more purposeful industry.
The criteria for how Fashion Open Studio selects brands and designers for the programme can be found here.
No brand in the Index scores 100%. In fact, the highest score this year is 78% – and the average score across all brands is just 24%.
However, in theory, a score of 100% would mean that a brand is publicly disclosing details of every supplier in their supply chain and every policy, procedure, performance and impact reviewed in the Index across a broad range of human rights, environmental and governance issues.
A score of 100% is not the ‘end’, but rather a great starting point for accountability, addressing impact, mitigating human rights and environmental risks and driving change for the better.
Real transparency, and a score of 100%, would also enable civil society organisations and experts, including the trade unions that represent garment workers, to scrutinise the disclosed information. Where necessary, they could call out shortcomings or malpractice and track to see if these are addressed.
A score of 100% would free civil society organisations from the lengthy process of ‘proving’ responsibility and chains of custody and allow them to focus on driving impact by holding the brand accountable for addressing and mitigating issues and risks.
A commitment to transparency is a commitment to an ongoing process of continuous improvement. It is not a tick-box exercise. Even a brand scoring 100% would not be ‘done’; they would need to maintain up-to-date disclosure on evolving issues. The human rights and environmental risks in fashion are in constant flux – and so to maintain transparency, disclosure would need to be continuously updated too.
We want to be very clear that the Fashion Transparency Index does not measure sustainability or ethics; it measures public disclosure of information that people can use to hold major brands and retailers to account for their claims.
Fashion Revolution believes that the pursuit of endless growth is in itself unsustainable and the model which big multinational brands and retailers included in this Index rely upon. Greater transparency shines a light on the impacts of this fundamental problem. We are not endorsing any single brand in the Index and it is not intended to be used as a shopping guide by consumers.
Fashion Revolution remains committed to ensuring all findings of the Fashion Transparency Index, including a brand’s individual score or ranking, are communicated accurately and in context. All brands in the Index are issued with prescriptive Communications Guidelines, which you can read here, to ensure that they communicate their results accurately, avoiding confusion and greenwashing.
The research is based entirely on information which is in the public domain that has been published by major fashion brands and retailers.
However, it is beyond the scope of this research to verify information published in the public domain by major brands and retailers. Affected stakeholders and experts on-the-ground in sourcing countries are best placed to scrutinise and verify the claims brands are making.
We actively encourage publicly disclosed information to be scrutinised by anyone and everyone and used to hold brands to account. And, we will continue pushing big brands to put more information in the public domain. Read how this Index can inform your activism here.
The Index has driven positive change by influencing major brands and retailers to disclose more information about their policies, practices and impacts, in their own operations and in their supply chains.
When Fashion Revolution published the first Index in 2016, only 5 out of 40 major brands (12.5%) disclosed their suppliers and now seven years later 121 out of 250 major brands (48%) disclose their suppliers.
Supply chain transparency is crucial for finding problems and fixing them and to see that this disclosure has increased year-on-year since 2016 is an indication that the Index has been influential.
Because more big brands have published their supplier lists in the past few years, several instances of human rights abuses in brands’ supply chains have been flagged and resolved. See a selection of case studies on pages 24 and 25 in the full report on how worker advocates have been using transparent disclosure to address abuses and hold brands to account.
For brands that have been reviewed year-on-year since 2017, we have seen their average scores on transparency progressively increase. We have also forged partnerships with several other organisations, including Wikirate and Fashion Checker, to enable the Index research to be used by workers’ rights advocates to call upon major brands to address abuses in their supply chains.
Anyone, anywhere should be able to find out how, where, by whom and at what social and environmental costs their clothes are made. This requires greater transparency across fashion’s global value chain.
So, our call to you is this – do not use this Index to inform your shopping choices but rather use these findings to inform your activism.
We urge readers to use these findings to speak up and challenge the big profitable brands and retailers on their claims, urging them to be more accountable and prove that they’re making changes in reality and not just on paper.
For citizens, this means calling on:
A review of the 250 biggest fashion brands and retailers ranked according to how much they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts.DOWNLOAD
A review of the 250 biggest fashion brands and retailers ranked according to how much they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impact.DOWNLOAD
A review of the 200 biggest fashion brands and retailers ranked according to how much they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impact.DOWNLOAD
Ranking the levels of transparency of 150 of the biggest global fashion companies.DOWNLOAD
The scores, underlying data and sources of the Fashion Transparency Index are also hosted on WikiRate.org. This partnership allows us to share our data with the world under an open data license.EXPLORE WIKIRATE
Want to get in touch with us about the Fashion Transparency Index? Please email firstname.lastname@example.org