LONDON — Fashion Revolution, the nonprofit organization based in London, has responded to criticism of the Transparency Index the group released earlier this month that called out luxury and fast-fashion brands on their lack of visibility in the supply chain.
The group partnered with the magazine and Web site Ethical Consumer to release the index, which assessed the levels of transparency and support of workers’ rights of 40 brands based on publicly available information and a questionnaire, which was answered by a quarter of the brands included in the research. The group said the methodology used to create the index takes a “bold, brushstroke approach” to assess companies’ publicly facing information against best basic practice in supply chain transparency.
According to the Transparency Index, Levi Strauss, H&M and Adidas were among the brands ranked the highest, while luxury brands such as Fendi, Hermès, Chanel and Prada were criticized for being the least transparent. Some of the brands and organizations have roundly criticized the methodology of the index as inaccurate, only assessing a brands’ communications policies as opposed to its social and environmental responsibilities.
Fashion Revolution’s cofounder and director Orsola de Castro responded by saying one of the primary aims of the index has in fact been to measure what a brand communicates in terms of its supply chain, as the industry has a responsibility to educate the consumer.
“We are not an auditing company, we wanted to measure what a brand communicates, so we looked at the information that a consumer would be able to access. The industry has a responsibility to inform the consumer of how the product they are purchasing is made. The media is also asking for this information,” de Castro told WWD. “The index is by no means perfect or definitive but it’s a first step to ignite consumer vigilance. If brands have such wonderful relationships with their manufacturers, then they should show us. That way, if we start to shine a light on the complex supply chain, we can show the positive changes the fashion industry can make.”
By asking for additional information from the brands through their questionnaire, de Castro explained that the index aims to educate the consumer further “so that they don’t have to do the research themselves.”
The group will continue working on the index, with plans to work with more NGOs for next year’s report and include up to 100 brands. LVMH, Monsoon and Hugo Boss have been in touch with the group in order to participate in the questionnaire and be included as part of the 2017 index, de Castro said.
She also highlighted that as consumers become more conscious, the index aims to highlight that “transparency makes business sense.”
Acknowledging that the information available can be confusing or contradicting for the consumer — for instance, the group applauded H&M for disclosing information about its manufacturers and investing in educational initiatives yet criticized the retailer for its “World Recycle Week” project, which can only make use of a fraction of the clothes donated — de Castro explained that it is inevitable that some questions still remain unanswered.
“When there is a big shift there will always be question marks, there wouldn’t be a movement if things were clear. It’s a work in progress and it requires spontaneous navigation; three years ago before the Rana Plaza disaster, the words supply chain were not even understood, while now people are talking about supply chains at the supermarket.”
The group plans to continue to strengthen the index and increase its scope of methodology in the next year. They will also be working alongside the European Union on the European Garment Initiative, as well as on a project to promote the need for living wages in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia and India.