This is the fifth annual edition of the Fashion Transparency Index. This year, we reviewed 250 of the world’s largest fashion brands and retailers and ranked them according to how much they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts.
The Index is a tool to incentivise and push major brands to be more transparent, and encourage them to disclose more information about their policies, practices and supply chain. Transparency isn’t about which brand does the best, but about who discloses the most information. Transparency does not equal sustainability. Brands may be disclosing a lot of information about their policies and practices but this doesn’t mean they are acting in a sustainable or ethical manner. We know that the pursuit of endless growth is in itself unsustainable. However, without transparency we cannot see or protect vulnerable people and the living planet.
Public disclosure invites us in, and allows us to exercise our right to find out more, non-disclosure perpetuates a non-inclusive system, where citizens are expected to trust brands who have continued to put profit and growth above all else.
DOWNLOAD THE FASHION TRANSPARENCY INDEX 2020
Lack of transparency costs lives. When the Rana Plaza factory collapsed seven years ago, killing and injuring thousands of garment workers, people 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 adequate and the environment is safeguarded without knowing where their products are being made. That’s why transparency is essential. It is the first step in holding brands to account for the human rights and environmental impacts of their practices.
Transparency requires that companies know and share #WhoMadeMyClothes – from who stitched them right through to who dyed the fabric and who farmed the cotton — and under what conditions.
Being transparent doesn’t mean that companies are behaving in a responsible and sustainable manner. A brand may publish a considerable amount of information about its policies, practices and impacts and still be contributing to poor working conditions and environmental degradation. On the other hand, brands may be doing excellent work behind the scenes to make improvements, but if they don’t share this information publicly then no one may know about it and this learning cannot be shared more widely with others who may find it useful.
Transparency is more than just sharing the good work that brands are doing. Too often we see brands boasting about their business values and positive progress without sharing much about the things that go wrong, the systemic challenges they face and the actual honest results of their efforts to protect human rights and the environment. This can come across as greenwashing. It is also not enough to disclose crucial supply chain information internally or selectively to certain stakeholders only. This is how brands have operated for a very long time, yet widespread abuses remain endemic across the industry. True transparency requires public disclosure.
Transparency enables others to scrutinise what companies say they are doing to address human rights and protect the environment. It means that there is information available for which others (consumers, investors, lawmakers, journalists, NGOs, trade unions, workers themselves) can hold brands and retailers to account for their policies and practices, especially when things go wrong like it did that day at Rana Plaza.
Transparency is not a silver bullet that will solve the many complex and deeply systemic problems in the global fashion industry. However, transparency provides a window into the conditions in which our clothes are being made and allows us to address them more quickly and collaboratively. There are many challenges that need to be addressed and the Fashion Transparency Index is one tool towards making a better industry. Transparency isn’t just for transparency’s sake. The information disclosed by companies needs to be accessible and detailed enough to take action upon. What each of us does with this public disclosure, how we use it to drive positive change, is what will count most. In this sense, we see transparency as the first crucial step towards systemic and structural change in the global fashion industry.
The Fashion Transparency Index 2020 reviews and ranks 250 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact.
The Fashion Transparency Index comprises 220 indicators covering a wide range of social and environmental topics such as animal welfare, biodiversity, chemicals, climate, due diligence, forced labour, freedom of association, gender equality, living wages, purchasing practices, supplier disclosure, waste and recycling, working conditions and more.
We assessed brands and retailers across five key areas:
Please note we are not evaluating brands’ ethical or sustainability performance but rather how much information they disclose publicly about their human rights and environmental policies, practices and impacts. This information enables others (consumers, investors, lawmakers, journalists, NGOs, trade unions, workers themselves) to hold brands to account, especially when things go wrong like it did that day at Rana Plaza.
The average score for all 250 brands and retailers is 23% out of 250 possible points, showing that the world’s biggest brands have a long way to go towards transparency.
H&M is the highest scoring brand this year at 73%, followed by C&A at 70%, Adidas and Reebok at 69%, Esprit at 64% and Marks & Spencer tied with Patagonia at 60%. Gucci is the highest scoring luxury brand at 48%, up from 40% in 2019.
The majority of brands and retailers lack transparency on social and environmental issues. More than half of brands (54%) score 20% or less. Despite this, there are fewer low-scoring brands this year compared to last year. For example, 28% of brands score 10% or less in 2020, compared to 36% of brands in 2019.
However, we are seeing many brands take steps towards greater transparency. Out of the 98 brands we have reviewed since 2017, we have seen their average score increase by 12 percentage points.
Brands that participated in the Index this year (by completing our questionnaire) have achieved an average score of 35% while non-participating brands achieved 11%.
The good news is that 101 out of 250 brands (40%) are publishing their first tier manufacturers, up from 35% in 2019. These are the facilities that do the cutting, sewing and finishing of garments in the final stages of production.
60 out of 250 brands (24%) are publishing some of their processing facilities, up from 19% in 2019. These are the sorts of facilities that do ginning and spinning yarn, knitting and weaving fabrics, dyeing and wet processing, leather tanneries, embroidering and embellishing, fabric finishing, dyeing and printing and laundering.
And, 18 out of 250 brands (7%) are publishing some of their raw material suppliers, up from 5% in 2019. These suppliers are those that provide brands and their manufacturers further down the chain with raw materials such as cotton, wool, viscose, hides, rubber, dyes, metals and so on.
As we have seen in previous editions of the Fashion Transparency Index, brands publish more about their policies than they do about the outcomes, results and progress they have made to address social and environmental issues in their business and supply chain.
For example, only 12 brands (5%) report annual, measurable progress towards paying living wages to workers in their supply chains. And, only 16% of brands publish annual carbon emissions produced within their supply chains — where the highest proportion of carbon is emitted across the lifecycle of a garment.
We invite you to read the full report for a deeper dive into the 2020 results.
We will continue to use the Index to measure brands’ annual progress on transparency and to push them harder and faster towards taking greater responsibility for their policies and actions on social and environmental issues.
As consumers, we have the right to know that our hard-earned money is not supporting exploitation, human rights abuses and environmental destruction. But there is no way to hold brands and governments to account if information about what we buy is kept secret.
This is why we encourage you to demand that major brands and retailers are more transparent. Always ask the brands you buy #WhoMadeMyClothes
This year for the first time, Fashion Revolution has partnered with WikiRate to make the Fashion Transparency Index and its underlying data more accessible and comparable with other benchmarks through WikiRate’s open data platform. Having recently launched their benchmarks program, WikiRate supports benchmarking initiatives in making their company data and scoring systems available for anyone to use in research and advocacy.
In our first country specific edition of the Index, the Fashion Transparency Index Brazil has driven increased public disclosure of brands’ human rights and environmental policies, practices and impacts from 30 of the largest brands operating in the Brazilian market.Read the Fashion Transparency Index Brazil 2019
Want to get in touch with the Policy and Research Team about the Fashion Transparency Index? Email us at Transparency@fashionrevolution.org
Fashion Transparency Index Researcher and Fashion Revolution Philippines: Head of Creative Commissions ProjectView bio
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
Want to take an in-depth look into the Fashion Transparency Index? You can download the full data set and methodology.DOWNLOAD