fashion still needs to make efforts to keep its promises

fashion still needs to make efforts to keep its promises


The non-profit organization Remake, which celebrates its four years of existence this year, has published its latest “Fashion Accountability Report 2024”. A report that measures the performance of 52 major fashion companies (with over $100 million in annual revenue) such as Fast Retailing, H&M, Inditex, Kering, LVMH and PVH, in six key areas: traceability, wages and welfare, business practices, raw materials, environmental justice and governance.

This year, five new companies were added: the C&A chain of stores, the American committed outdoor clothing brand Cotopaxi, the American department store chain Macy's, the American shapewear and clothing brand Skims and the Chinese marketplace Temu.

In theory, these companies could get up to 150 points, but in reality the average score for responsibility was only 14 points out of 150, the same as last year. By domain, the average scores for traceability, wages and well-being, business practices and governance remained unchanged at 1 out of 8 respectively; 2 of 23; 1 in 15 and 3 in 42. Raw materials and environmental justice only improved by 1 point this year, with 3 in 20 and 5 in 42.

Main findings

Overproduction

Overproduction is still at the heart of the problem: “without a significant reduction in annual item production, even the simultaneous implementation of 'circularity' initiatives, improvements in energy efficiency and use of “eco-friendly” materials will not be enough to sufficiently reduce fashion’s overall climate footprint and, likewise, its negative effects on the labor market,” the report says, which is a sobering thought.

“For the moment, no company can prove that it is renewing the classic production pattern; they simply implement repair, resale and rental programs alongside the production of new items. The few companies that report their annual production volumes have all reported consecutive year-over-year increases,” the report reads.

Insufficient reduction of emissions

The other problem for the fashion industry is that it is not meeting its emissions reduction targets: “Few companies have been able to demonstrate that they are financing the decarbonization of their supply chains. supply, and existing investments are not growing at the speed needed. Likewise, current initiatives do not sufficiently take into account the unique needs of each sourcing country and each factory,” the report concludes.

“It is imperative to establish true partnerships between fashion companies and suppliers. Manufacturers should participate in developing region-specific emissions reduction strategies, while brands and retailers, who have the necessary resources, should share the costs,” the report advises.

The scores of the 52 fashion companies that were assessed for the Fashion Accountability Report 2024. Chart in English.
The scores of the 52 fashion companies that were assessed for the Fashion Accountability Report 2024. Chart in English. Credits: Remake

Fighting climate change

The report highlights that there is a big difference between climate change mitigation, which means reducing emissions, and climate change adaptation, which involves helping communities affected by the change. climate to survive and thrive. “Both are critical, but so far businesses have done little to recognize, let alone address, the adverse effects of climate events, such as extreme heat and flooding, which are already faced by garment workers and supplier communities in major producing countries,” the report reads.

Businesses are advised to invest in climate change adaptation measures as soon as possible, or risk losing tens of billions of dollars to suppliers and fashion companies. “Companies must therefore invest in the resilience of factories, workers and communities so that all are equipped to withstand and recover from extreme climate events.”

Fairer business practices

A company's business practices include dealing with sourcing factories and other suppliers regarding contracts, setting prices, managing and changing orders, resolving disputes, and terminating contracts. “The imbalance of power and wealth in fashion supply chains allows companies to dictate contract terms (which benefit them over suppliers) and shift all risk onto their manufacturers, who are expected to remain competitive in terms of price while assuming all costs related to compliance with minimum standards on labor rights and the environment”, summarizes the report, which shows in the graph above that 20 of the companies surveyed obtain no rating in this domain.

“The resulting highly competitive atmosphere between providers, and between supplier countries, forces them to constantly reduce their costs, which compromises their ability not only to compensate their workers fairly, but also to implement any improvements in sustainable development matters that are required of them. While no progress has been seen this year in business practices, it is clear that responsible contracts requiring shared responsibility for preventing, accounting for and remediating negative supply chain impacts are necessary.” , warns the report.

Decent salaries

For years, and despite numerous promises made, garment workers have received wages that do not even cover their basic expenses, pushing them into debt and falling into poverty. In a race to the lowest price, “unfair contract clauses force suppliers to assume responsibility and risk for the costs of wage increases. “Downward pressure on prices from fashion companies translates into policy constraints aimed at keeping minimum wages well below the living wage so that producing countries remain competitive,” the report explains. This would explain why ten of the 52 companies surveyed received no rating in this area.

“Fashion companies have the power to ensure fair pay or, conversely, prevent their suppliers from paying and treating their workers fairly. At present, companies still largely avoid getting involved in advocating for higher minimum wages and freedom of association in their sourcing countries, in implementing fairer business practices and in publication of public accountability information, such as region-specific wage data and living wage benchmarks. All of these elements are necessary for the sector to advance pay equity,” according to the report.

Good legislation

Referencing the failure of more than three decades of voluntary corporate social responsibility efforts, Remake highlights a global economic system that encourages growth based on overproduction, pollution and exploitation. “For broader systemic change to occur, major brands and influential retailers must support legislation and binding agreements that hold fashion companies jointly accountable for human rights and environmental impacts throughout their supply chains”.

The organization advises putting workers at the center of the development of any proposed legislation and ensuring that upstream accountability mechanisms are built in from the start.

Remake’s “Fashion Accountability Report 2024” provides a universal benchmark against which all companies are compared. This provides new information and new guidelines. “It’s time to partner with workers to transition production from new to recycled fashion and textiles of all kinds,” says Union of Concerned founding board member Lynda Grose. Researchers in Fashion (UCRF) and professor at the California College of the Arts.

Traceability

In terms of traceability, it is surprising to note that some big names like Inditex, Burberry, Kering, Primark, Rei, American Eagle Outfitters, Muji, Macy's, Shein, Chanel, Savage and Fenty, URBN, Kohl's, Disney, Forever 21, JC Penney, Fashion Nova, Missguided and Skims, 19 companies in total, score poorly in this key area.

Remake evaluates each company holistically and scores it on its progress rather than its promises, does not separate social impacts from environmental impacts. The report is not funded by the fashion industry as in previous editions. However, each company evaluated had the opportunity to review its rating scale before publication of the report. Among the 24 participating companies*, almost half decided to cooperate; many were able to improve their final score by making additional information public.

The full report can be viewed and downloaded on the Remake website.

*These companies are: Abercrombie & Fitch, Allbirds, American Eagle Outfitters, Bestseller, Boohoo, C&A, Cotopaxi, Everlane, Fast Retailing, Gap, H&M, Inditex, Levi Strauss, LVMH, Macy's, Next, Primark, Puma, Reformation , River Island, Rothy's, Shein, VF Corporation and Victoria's Secret.

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.com. It was translated and edited in French by Sharon Camara.

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