Brands lack transparency in supply chain

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None of the 100 biggest global fashion brands could score over 50 per cent in a new index, while only eight out of scored higher than 40, according to a new transparency index.

Fashion Revolution, a campaign group, unveiled the 2017 Fashion Transparency Index to monitor and rank the clothing brands on transparency across their supply chain.

The average score brands achieved was 49 out of 250, less than 20 per cent of the total possible points.

The research found that even the highest scoring brands on the list still have a long way to go towards being transparent.

The brands are Adidas and Reebok with highest 49 points, Marks and Spencer and H&M-48 and Puma, Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy scored 46 points out of 250, according to the index published on April 24 last.

Fashion Revolution conducted the Fashion Transparency Index 2017 that reviews and ranks 100 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact.

Those  brands were selected based on their annual turnover over $1.2 billion, voluntarily agreed to be included after last year’s edition and representing a cross section of market segments including high street, luxury, sportswear, accessories, footwear and denim from across Europe, North America, South America and Asia.

“The good news is that 32 of the 100 brands in the Fashion Transparency Index 2017 are publishing supplier lists – at least at the first tier where clothes are typically cut, sewn and trimmed,” the report accompanied with the index said. “This is an increase from last year in which just five of the 40 companies reviewed were publishing supplier lists.”

This year 14 out of the 100 brands are also publishing their processing facilities where clothes are dyed, printed, laundered and otherwise finished at an earlier stage of production.

No brand publishes its raw material suppliers, so there is no way of knowing where cotton, wool or other fibres come from or who produces them, the report said.

There are also lots of middle-men involved in the journey of clothes, it said, adding wholesalers, agents and distributors are important and profitable roles in the clothing industry that the public doesn’t really see.

Citing the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed more than 1,100 garment workers in 2013, the report said that the lack of transparency costs lives.

It took weeks for several brands to determine whether they had connections with the factories inside that building, despite their clothing labels being found in the rubble.

Referring to the crackdown on labour rights in Ashulia, the report quoted Jenny Holdcroft, assistant general secretary of Industriall Global Union, saying: “Knowing the names of major buyers from factories gives workers and their unions a stronger leverage, crucial for a timely solution when resolving conflicts, whether it be refusal to recognise the union or unlawful sacking for demanding their rights.”

Asked, Md Shahidullah Azim, a former Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) leader, said transparency in the whole supply chain was important though it was a complex issue.

A recent dialogue also stressed ensuring fairness in the supply chain for a sustainable readymade garment (RMG) sector.

Speakers at the dialogue said that the central element of the garment sector is that it operates in a deeply unjust global value chain, where a Bangladesh-made $5.0 shirt is sold at $25 at Wal-Mart stores or at much higher prices in countries such as Sweden.

They noted that the current business model forces the suppliers to squeeze their workers as they would have to produce the shirt at $5.0.

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