Mexico’s fledgling Fashion Transparency Index has picked C&A and Levi Strauss as the international brands that will anchor its sustainability survey set to launch in December.
Department-stores Liverpool, Sears and smaller luxury chain El Palacio de Hierro have also made the list, alongside several local shoe brands such as Andrea and Price Shoes. Mariscal, a relatively unknown men’s suits brand, is also among the 20 retailers, clothing and footwear firms that will be evaluated for their efforts to promote fair labour and protect the environment.
However, in a country where apparel-making continues to face heavy criticism from labour rights activists, no textile manufacturers were included.
“We had planned the release in October, but we decided to do it in December as the Covid-19 crisis complicated retailers’ operations,” says Efrain Martinez, who coordinates the project for UK-based sustainability consultancy Fashion Revolution. It has teamed with human rights activist Arlenica to launch the index in Mexico.
“Many executives are in quarantine or not working so it was difficult to communicate our project to them,” Martinez adds.
Mexico is one of the worst virus-hit Latin American countries after Brazil – with over 5,600 deaths and 54,000 cases. It was chosen as the second country in the region after Brazil to roll out the survey, because its large number of retailers and brands could benefit from a corporate responsibility standpoint. These brands could also help tackle slave labour and environmental degradation, which continue to worsen in Latin America’s second-biggest economy.
Fashion Revolution already runs a global index tracking more than 200 firms. They have seen market-share gains by releasing information about their supply chain practices, with significant increases in product traceability, among other things, according to founder Carry Sommers.
Martinez says the country faces an uphill battle to improve garment workers’ rights, which are expected to worsen as thousands of retailers struggle under the economic recession wrought by the virus.
Labour rights will be very hard to improve with this pandemic. We are realising that many companies have not cared [about workers]. Many maquilas, especially in Mexico’s north, are still producing and people are working without protective equipment.”
The index’s Mexican team will endeavour to help brands and retailers understand that subcontracting can be a troublesome activity.
“With subcontracting, brands don’t have the tools to foster transparency and product traceability,” Martinez notes. “The idea of having this index is for companies to see opportunity areas to improve what they are doing and for rights organisations and the government to take action.”
According to Martinez, some brands around the world have taken advantage of the index to exaggerate their sustainability credentials, prompting Fashion Revolution to issue statements to tone down their marketing rhetoric.
“Companies should not use the index for marketing but to connect with clients in a different way,” Martinez concludes.
The latest release of the main index last year ranked sportswear brands Adidas and Reebok, and outdoor specialist Patagonia, as the three companies leading the way on transparency.