Levis, H&M, Adidas, Zara and Primark have been named as the global fashion brands with the most transparent supply chains, in a report published to mark Fashion Revolution Week.
The awareness raising week (18th – 24th April 2016), which sees consumers asking brands #whomademyclothes, marks the third anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, when 1,134 people were killed in a garment factory collapse in Bangladesh.
According to the Fashion Revolution team, at the time of the disaster, some fashion brands took weeks to determine whether they had relationships with the factories involved, despite their clothing labels being found in the rubble.
To push for greater transparency in the fashion industry supply chain - and therefore greater accountability, - Fashion Revolution and Ethical Consumer joined forces to publish their first ever Fashion Transparency Index.
The index ranks 40 global fashion brands according to the level of transparency in their supply chain.
Carry Somers, co-founder of Fashion Revolution said: "Shoppers have the right to know that their money is not supporting exploitation, human rights abuses and environment destruction.
“Lack of transparency costs lives."
Somers added: "It is impossible for companies to make sure human rights are respected and that environmental practices are sound without knowing where their products are made, who is making them and under what conditions.
"When companies are working in a transparent way, this also implies openness, communication and accountability across the supply chain and with the public."
"The public do not have enough information about where and how their clothes are made.
"There is no way to hold companies and governments to account if we can’t see what is truly happening behind the scenes. This is why transparency is so essential.”
The Fashion Transparency Index took five key areas into consideration when ranking brands:
1. Policy & Commitment
What are the standards and goals the company sets itself for the protection of workers’ rights and the environment? And do they make these public?
2. Tracking & Traceability
How well does the company know its supply chain and what does it make public?
3. Audits & Remediation
How does the company go about checking its supply chain for compliance with its policies and standards? And what is its approach to dealing with suppliers who fall below these standards? Do they make these public?
4. Engagement & Collaboration
Which organisations and stakeholders does the company work with to ensure its suppliers and their employees are treated well? And do they make these public?
What checks and balances does the company have in place within its own organisation, to ensure its initiatives take place as planned? And do they make this public?
All 40 companies included in the index were invited to fill out a questionnaire about their policies.
Fashion Revolution received just 10 completed surveys. The other 30 companies were assessed based on information available on their website and in their annual reports.
The average transparency score for the 40 brands surveyed was 42%.
Levi Strauss & Co came top with 77%, closely followed by H&M and Inditex (the company responsible for Zara, Pull & Bear, Bershka, and Massimo Dutti), both with 77%.
This means these companies are doing more than most other brands to publicly communicate their supply chain practices, and they seem to have many robust systems in place for tracking, tracing, monitoring and improving labour and environmental practices across the supply chain.
They also show evidence of working with trade unions, civil society or NGOs on the ground in supplier countries to improve working conditions.
But there is still room for improvement.
At the bottom of the table were Chanel with a Fashion Transparency Index of just 10%, followed by Hermes and Claire's Accessories at 17%.
The report states: "These companies have little to no information about their supply chain practices available to the public."
Prada and LVMH (the company behind Dior, Emilio Pucci, Fendi, Givenchy, Kenzo, Marc Jacobs, Louis Vuitton, and Thomas Pink) were also in the bottom 10, which the reports authors suggest sends "a strong signal that luxury brands in particular have much more work to do".
In response to the Fashion Transparency Index, a Chanel spokesperson told The Huffington Post UK:
"This index in no way measures actions regarding social, societal and environmental responsibility, but only evaluates the communication policies of brands relative to these topics.
"As explicitly stated, 'The Index does not offer an in-depth analysis of the content of a company’s policies or performance in any given area' and regarding brands that did not answer the questionnaire, you have no way of assessing the reality of the policies implemented.
"Like three-quarters of the companies questioned, if Chanel chose not to answer the questionnaire, it is because the reality of our actions seems more important to us than any related media coverage.
"Chanel’s ready-to-wear products are manufactured exclusively in France, Italy and Scotland; this proximity allows us to be extremely familiar with our partners, most of whom have been working with us for many years.
"Furthermore, we perform regular audits of our subcontractors’ social, societal and environmental responsibility policies and actions.
"Chanel is extremely vigilant with regard to all ethical, social, societal and environmental issues in all of its fields of activity, even though this is not part of our communication strategy'."
Adidas, (69%), Primark (67%) Gap (65%), PVH (Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Speedo) (58%), Nike (57%), Converse (57%), Uniqlo (56%) received a high-to-middle rating.
Mango received 50% while Topshop and the Arcadia group (Burton Menswear, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Outfit, Topman, Wallis) received just 49%.
Also in the low-middle ranking group were Abercrombie &Fitch (45%), Lululemon (44%), Coach (43%), Burberry (43%), ASOS (43%), J Crew (42%), Hugo Boss (42%), Victoria's Secret (40%), Gucci (38%), New Look (37%), URBN (Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People) and Ralph Lauren, both 33%.
Hugo Boss told HuffPost UK that the company had not received the Ethical Consumer/Fashion Revolution questionnaire, but they have since reached out them with details on the work being undertaken to continually improve its sustainability standards.