Baptist World Aid Australia's 2021 Ethical Fashion Report has found that while fashion companies are making efforts to invest in ethical sourcing, their efforts aren't reaching garment workers.
The report, which has been released today, found that while fashion businesses are making efforts, the scores show that the industry still has a way to go.
Baptist World Aid's report ranks 100 fashion companies representing 420 brands and includes its first new A+ to F grades in over two years.
Overall, 20 companies received A+ or A, 55 received B-C and 23 received a D-F.
"We’ve seen considerable progress in the fashion industry and engaged with many brands that are committed to becoming more ethical and sustainable," Baptist World Aid director of advocacy Peter Keegan said.
"But these grades and scores show us we’re not there yet," he said.
Australia and New Zealand fashion businesses that Baptist World Aid has ranked as an A+ or A are:
- As Colour (A)
- Country Road Group (A)
- Etiko (A+)
- Hallenstein Glasson Holdings (A)
- Joyya (A+)
- Kathmandu (A)
- Macpac (A)
- Mighty Good Basics (A+)
- Outland Denim (A+)
- Rodd & Gunn (A)
ANZ businesses that are making progress and achieved a B are:
- Barker's Clothing*
- Cotton On Group
- David Jones
- Factory X
- Kmart and Target Australia
- Nobody Denim
- Princess Polly
- Retail Apparel Group
- Rip Curl
- Workwear Group
Meanwhile, ANZ businesses that Baptist World Aid ranked an F include:
- Fast Future Brands*|
- Voyager Distributing Co*|
This year's report focuses on modern slavery and climate change as priorities for the fashion industry.
According to the findings, the number of companies with a commitment to reduce emissions has risen by 10% since 2019, however, Australian and New Zealand companies are lacking behind their international counterparts on climate commitments.
The report found that 37 companies lack any evidence of a commitment or strategy, and that 35 of those are Australia or New Zealand-based.
2021 also marks the end of the first round of Australia’s Modern Slavery Act, with a significant number of businesses required to disclose their work to address forced and child labour in their supply chains.
Despite this, the report found that efforts to empower garment workers are lacking, with the average company scoring a D for their actions on wage improvement, worker unions and complaints processes.
"Our research identified a vast gap between the ethical sourcing measures companies put in place, and real, tangible outcomes for garment workers," Baptist World Aid Australia advocacy project manager Chantelle Mayo said.
"That’s a big hurdle for any consumer trying to shop ethically, and an area we need to keep pressuring the fashion industry to address," she said.
The research found that the pandemic drove a 5% drop in the number of companies paying some workers in their supply chain a living wage, slipping from 20% in 2019 to 15% in 2021.
According to Baptist World Aid, the early months of pandemic saw garment workers in Bangladesh and India lose more than US$16 billion dollars in wages.
Keegan said that while progress may be slow and was disrupted during the pandemic, brands are moving in the right direction.
"We want consumers to understand that shopping ethically isn’t as simple as choosing to buy only from top grade brands.
"All of the companies we assess have room for improvement," he said.
The full Baptist World Aid Australia 2021 Ethical Fashion Report is available to read now on the Baptist World Aid website.
*Companies with an asterisk (*) beside their grade have been assessed by Baptist World Aid on ‘Public Information Only’. This may be because they have chosen to only provide evidence through their public transparency initiatives or because they have opted not to engage. All evidence is assessed using the same validation criteria.
| Companies with an (|) beside their grades did not engage with Baptist World Aid's research process and have ‘Insufficient Public Information’ to assess more than 20 per cent of the EFR survey questions. Some of these companies may have additional measures in place within their supply chains but Baptist World Aid states the grade remains an accurate reflection of their transparency. BWA states this transparency is critical as it enables accountability and provides the basis for informed consumer decisions.