adidas and Reebok remain at the top of the latest release of an index that monitors and ranks high street clothing brands on transparency across their value chains – and are joined this year by outdoor specialist Patagonia.

The first edition of the Fashion Transparency Index was launched in April 2016 and saw lobby group Fashion Revolution score 40 of the largest global fashion brands on how they communicate what they are doing to improve social and environmental standards across their supply chains, and how much of that information they share with the public. This has since expanded to 200 companies.

Brands are benchmarked on their performance against five key areas: policy and commitments, governance, traceability, supplier assessment, and remediation, and spotlight issues, which this year focus on the Sustainable Development Goals.

In an update today (24 April), the Index, which uses a ratings methodology that focuses exclusively on public disclosure of supply chain information, found sportswear brands Adidas and Reebok and outdoor specialist Patagonia as the three brands leading the way on transparency, each scoring 64% out of 250 possible points.

These were followed by Hong Kong-listed fashion group Esprit, and Swedish apparel retailer H&M in the 61-70% bracket. While C&A, ASOS, Puma, NIKE, Converse, Jordan, The North Face, Timberland, Wrangler, Vans, and Marks & Spencer all ranked at the top end of the 51-60% range.

This is the first year since the Fashion Transparency Index’s inception that brands scored above 60%, showing that real, tangible steps are now being taken to disclose more about social and environmental policies, practices and impacts. However, Fashion Revolution notes that as no brand is yet to score above the 70% range, there is still a long way to go.

“The progress we are seeing this year, coupled with the feedback Fashion Revolution has received from brands, suggests that inclusion in the Fashion Transparency Index has motivated major fashion brands to be more transparent,” says Sarah Ditty, policy director and report author. “We are seeing many brands publishing their supplier lists and improving their scores year on year.”

Amongst the 98 brands reviewed in 2017, 2018 and again in 2019 there has been an 8.9% increase in the average score since they were first included in the Index.

In addition, 11 brands have increased their scores by over 10% this year, showing significant efforts to be more transparent – and data shows that more brands are embarking on their journey towards greater transparency.

While only five brands (2.5% of the brands reviewed) scored zero this year, compared with nine brands (6%) last year. These are Eli Tahari, Jessica Simpson, Mexx, Tom Ford and Chinese menswear brand Youngor. Another ten brands are disclosing “almost nothing” (less than 2%), Fashion Revolution says, including Longchamp, Max Mara, and New Yorker. 

“There is still a lot of work to be done, detailed information about the outcomes and impacts of their efforts is still lacking,” Ditty continues. “The average score amongst the biggest fashion brands and retailers is just 21%, showing that there are still far too many big brands lagging behind. Major brands are disclosing very little information and data about their purchasing practices, which means that we still don’t have visibility into what brands are doing to be responsible business partners to their suppliers.”

Fashion Revolution believes that the major fashion brands have the moral imperative and ability to effect change on a global scale for large numbers of people. Brands will also need to innovate, use fewer resources and help their customers consume less, take better care of their clothes and use them for longer if we are to tackle the climate crisis, the group says.

To help drive this change, every year Fashion Revolution explores a few key issues in deeper detail. This year it has chosen four of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that are “particularly relevant and urgent” for the global fashion industry to achieve by 2030 as its ‘Spotlight Issues’: SDG5: Gender Equality, SDG 8: Decent Work, SDG 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production and SDG 13: Climate Action.

It notes the following findings:

  • Brands are disclosing very little about their efforts to empower women and girls and achieve gender equality, despite the fact that women make up the majority of the workforce in the fashion industry from factory to shop floor.
  • Some progress has been made on disclosing equal pay policies and the gender pay gap by major fashion brands, but little is published about how brands are addressing gender-based labour violations in garment factories.
  • 55% out of the 200 brands are publishing the annual carbon footprint in the company’s own sites, although only 19.5% disclose carbon emissions in the supply chain – where over 50% of the industry’s emissions occur.
  • Given that major brands are expecting trust and transparency from suppliers, they too should share more information publicly about their own commitments and efforts to be responsible business partners. Only 9% of brands disclose a formal process for gathering supplier feedback on the company’s purchasing practices and just 6.5% of brands publish a policy of paying their suppliers within 60 days.

The highest scoring brands in the Spotlight Issues section this year are H&M, Adidas and Reebok, Patagonia as well as Bershka, Massimo Dutti, Pull&Bear, Stradivarius and Zara (all owned by Inditex), Asos and C&A, respectively.

Ditty adds: “We will continue to use the Index to measure brands’ progress and help push them harder and faster towards taking on more responsibility for their policies, practices and impacts.”

Click here to access the Fashion Transparency Index 2019 in full.