Niche brands have come out on top in a ranking of supply chain ethics among Australian fashion companies.
Baptist World Aid Australia’s annual ethical fashion report gave the country's brands an average C rating, while Etiko, Mighty Good Group and Outland Denim scored A+.
Baptist World Aid advocacy manager Gershon Nimbalker praised brands such as Cotton On, which scored an A on the report and topped the list for multinationals headquartered in Australia.
While brands such as Kmart, Jeanswest and Target all scored either a B or B+, fewer than 10% overall scored higher than an A.
Overall Australia’s C grade compared to overseas companies’ B- when it comes to transparency for global supply chain and workers’ rights.
The 2018 Ethical Fashion Report assessed 114 apparel companies, a week before the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse that killed more than 1100 people in Bangladesh in 2013.
The report said 35% of companies now publish full direct supplier lists but only 5% were able to prove they were paying all their workers a living wage.
A further 12% showed they were paying some of their workers a living wage, while 70% of the industry is yet to take significant action to improve worker wages, the report showed.
“While transparency remains a challenge in the industry, we celebrate the continued improvements here. The percentage of companies publishing full direct supplier lists has increased from 26% to 34% in the last year alone,” said the report.
It said that tracing of raw materials remained a significant challenge, with just 7% of companies knowing where all of their raw materials are coming from.
The area where most work still needs to be done is worker empowerment, where the median grade was C-.
This year, for the first time, the report assessed companies on gender policies and strategies. Only 22% had both the policy and strategy to address gender inequality and discrimination in their supply chain.
However since the first report was published in 2013 many more companies are publishing supplier lists.
Most of the companies which received an F grade in the report were awarded it either because they chose not to participate or because they had little or no publicly available information to assess their systems.
“Without transparency, it is almost impossible for consumers to trust that these companies have sufficient systems to ensure that the rights of workers are being upheld,” said the report.
Some companies, however, that chose not to engage with the report still managed to achieve high scores due to high levels of public transparency. Such companies included The Warehouse, Karen Walker and Anthea Crawford.
In last year’s report Patagonia and Inditex dominated the ranking.
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