Fashion Revolution was formed just after the tragic Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013 in response to the incident and the lack of knowledge around the question: “who made my clothes?”

The question sparked the beginnings of a global movement for transparency, catalysing conversations and public education around the way clothes are made to demand justice and dignity for the people who “make our clothes”.

In 2017, to increase pressure on the industry and give citizens the data they need to power their activism, the Global Fashion Transparency Index in 2017 was launched to measure what big fashion is telling us about their human rights and environmental practices because greater transparency is the starting point to accountability and systemic change.

“A decade later, the Fashion Revolution movement is now strong across 80 countries globally, united by a common vision of a global fashion industry that conserves and restores the environment and values people over growth and profit,” the organisation says.

Fashion Revolution – progress in the last decade

Transparency: Since its beginnings in 2017, through the Fashion Transparency Index (FTI) Fashion Revolution has seen 86% of major fashion brands that have been analysed continuously increase their levels of disclosure with an average of 15 percentage points, with some of these brands increasing their transparency by up to 54%. From just 100 brands initially, today the FTI has expanded to encompass 250 of the world’s largest brands, with 61% actively engaged.

In 2023, for the first time, two brands scored 80% or higher in the Global FTI. After years of slow movement in the luxury fashion sector – when transparency of supplier lists seemed unimaginable – some luxury brands are now disclosing this information even down to raw material level, with the five biggest movers being all luxury brands in 2023. Overall, despite the FTI being in its eighth iteration, far too many brands still disclose nothing year after year, and industry-wide progress remains painfully slow, with brands’ overall average score currently only 26%.

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Legislation: The most notable development can be attributed to the Bangladesh Accord on Health and Safety. Now known as the International Accord on Fire and Building Safety, it was signed just weeks after Rana Plaza and remains the only legally binding agreement in the fashion industry to date. Its achievements are remarkable in terms of life and limb worker issues and saving lives that shouldn’t have been jeopardised in the first place. Fashion Revolution says we must continue to advocate for its protection and expansion.

Citizen engagement: Transparency has grown from being radical to an expectation from many consumers who are actively seeking ethical fashion alternatives. The fashion industry is very aware of the change in consumer sentiment, and this shift has been disappointingly coupled with a rise in empty promises and misleading claims. In recent years, there has been a growing backlash towards greenwashing, with some citizens launching legal cases against offending brands and calling out public figures online for aligning with them. Citizens globally have mobilised in their hundreds of thousands to campaign for social and environmental justice, and stand with garment worker movements

But despite the progress, there is still some way to go in terms of cleaning up the fashion industry, says Fashion Revolution.

“After a decade of slow progress, it seems the fashion industry is, for the most part, still failing to do what is the bare minimum: taking accountability for its decisions and actions,” adds Fashion Revolution.

Fashion Revolution’s five target areas for progress

Purchasing practices: Unfair purchasing practices continue to be the backbone of exploitation in the fashion industry. By paying late, changing orders last minute, or outright cancelling fulfilled orders, brands are perpetuating an abusive and volatile cycle that systematises poverty, as factory owners and suppliers may be forced to make workers stay late to finish orders and are unable to pay their workers on time or even at all.

Meanwhile, customers are sometimes wearing clothes before big brands have paid the factories that made them. Covid order cancellations saw unprecedented wage theft and devastation for the people who make clothes. With the intensifying climate crisis, it begs the question if and how brands will ensure fair purchasing practices, as their track record has shown otherwise. Brand commitments to sustainability will always ring hollow if they continue to perpetrate these unfair purchasing practices that drive labour abuses for the people who make our clothes, says Fashion Revolution.

Living wages and freedom of association rights: 99% of the brands in the Global Fashion Transparency Index do not disclose the percentage of workers in their supply chain paid a living wage rate. Poverty pay is perpetuated when workers’ rights to Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining are repressed. It is by no coincidence that big fashion sources from regions of the world where these rights are limited, despite resounding commitments to protect them. With workers bravely protesting for higher pay, Freedom of Association is even more critical after the recent crackdowns on garment worker protests, where workers lost their lives demanding an increase in Bangladesh’s minimum wage negotiations. Living wages are not a luxury – they are a fundamental human right.

Decarbonisation and the just transition: The climate crisis is growing in intensity and urgency and yet, in 2023, little more than a third of the world’s largest brands disclosed a time-bound and measurable near-term target for decarbonisation verified by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi), with even less (12%) disclosing a long-term target for 2040-2050. Despite this, just 9% of brands reviewed disclosed their level of annual investment in decarbonisation. Raw material production and processing are the most carbon intensive stages in the supply chain and require the most investment, innovation and long-term planning.

Fashion Revolution adds that with an estimated $1tn required to cut roughly 50% of emissions by 2030 – it’s high time for big fashion to put its money where its emissions are and support suppliers to transition to clean energy.

Waste colonialism, overproduction and overconsumption: The fashion industry must be held accountable for driving overconsumption and significantly reduce production levels. Big fashion brands must also take responsibility for the waste they create and provide financial support to countries where it ends up which are most affected by waste colonialism. We need brands to tell us exactly how much clothing they are producing annually to give greater visibility on this issue and to hold producers accountable. The 2023 Global Fashion Transparency Index revealed that only 12% of brands disclose their annual production volumes, highlighting a clear lack of transparency on information any viable brand intentionally tracks.

Legislation: If the last ten years have shown Fashion Revolution anything, it’s that voluntary schemes don’t work. Governments must regulate the fashion industry by focusing on addressing the root cause of the issues and putting an end to brands’ self-assessments. Progress on corporate accountability legislation globally is welcome, but in its current forms it fails to deliver worker justice. We urgently need legislation at importing-country level to ensure fashion brands pay garment workers worldwide a living wage, and respect workers’ freedom to associate and collectively bargain on issues like pay. Converging climate and social injustice is the crisis of our time.

Fashion Revolution concludes: “Business as usual is not an option.”

Last week Fashion Revolution urged fashion consumers, brands and the wider apparel sector to drive social and environmental justice.