Fashion needs to do more on workers' rights and the environment says new report

24 April 2019, 01:17 | Updated: 24 April 2019, 04:01

The fashion industry still needs to do more on working conditions, human rights and the environment according to a new figures.

The Fashion Transparency Index gives 200 major global brands a percentage score based on how much they disclose, including information on supply chains and human rights policies.

This year it also looked at "spotlight issues" of gender equality, decent work, climate action, responsible consumption and production and climate action.

It found that there was a general improvement across the board, with Reebok, Adidas and outdoor clothing company Patagonia coming out top in terms of social and environmental transparency.

The release of the index coincides with the sixth anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh in which at least 1,132 people died and more than 2,500 were injured.

The building housed five garment factories and the disaster, along with the 2012 Tazreen Fashions factory fire, also in Bangladesh, that claimed the lives of at least 112 workers forced the fashion industry to examine the conditions in which its products are made, as well as the environmental costs.

In the index Reebok, Adidas and Patagonia all scored 64%, the first time any company has scored more than 60%.

Retailers including H&M;, Marks and Spencer, Nike, The North Face and Puma which all scored above 50%.

However the average transparency score was just 21% and five companies: Eli Tahari, Jessica Simpson, Mexx, Tom Ford and Chinese menswear brand Youngor had a zero ranking.

Sarah Ditty, the report author and policy director at Fashion Revolution, said there is still a "long way to go", but the improved figures show the industry is becoming "less opaque".

She said: "The fashion industry accounts for 8% of the world's global greenhouse gas emissions and it's expected to almost double by 2030, so if these businesses want to be successful in the future, the simple fact is that they have to begin to take drastic steps towards being responsible and sustainable.

"One of the most surprising and positive stories that's come out of the Fashion Transparency Index over the last couple of years is there's been a real paradigm shift in massive brands and retailers publishing who their suppliers are, where their clothes are manufactured, what the processing facilities are further down the supply chain and even what the sources are of their raw materials."

Making clothes is resource intensive requiring land, water and man power as well as fossil fuels and chemicals.

Some of the fibres in clothing can pollute our oceans and rivers and enter the food chain. The index looks at transparency, not sustainability, but the hope is a more open industry will mean more ethical and sustainable products.

Sarah Needham, from the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion, worries that we are buying clothes faster than ever before and "a lot of what we are producing is just ending up in the landfill".

"As time has gone on there is a disconnect in the relationship we have with our garments," she said.

"The whole premise of this consumption and getting rid of things has to change, and business models have to respond to that. We are seeing changes, but it will take time and there is of course a long way to go."