New Zealand’s ethical fashion companies for 2016 revealed: Who passed the test?

  • News
  • April 21, 2016
  • Elly Strang
New Zealand’s ethical fashion companies for 2016 revealed: Who passed the test?

The report was released to coincide with the third anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse.

The tragedy brought the often unsafe working conditions of the apparel industry to the forefront of the public consciousness, with many horrified consumers, investors and governments spurred into action.

A Colmar Brunton survey the year following found the majority (90 percent) of New Zealanders want to buy ethically and socially responsible products.

A total of 87 Australian and New Zealand companies were assessed by Baptist World Aid for the 2016 survey, with some actively choosing to participate and some not.

It aims to show what retailers are doing to address forced labour, child labour and exploitation.

Policies, knowing suppliers, auditing, supplier relationships and worker empowerment were the key areas explored when grading companies.

There have been promising improvements in companies' supply chain disclosure since the survey begun in 2013.

That year, Baptist World Aid found only half of the companies it interviewed had complete knowledge of who their suppliers were at the manufacturing stage of production.

“Knowing suppliers is critical to a strong labour rights management system. If companies don’t know or don’t care who their suppliers are, then they cannot ensure that workers are not being exploited,” it says.

In 2016, this number has increased to 70 percent.

As well as this, in 2013, just 41 percent of companies had put in some effort to know input suppliers (like where fabric is produced). This number has also improved, reaching 79 percent in 2016.

Companies have been awarded a grade ranging from A to F, based off their abilities to monitor the risk of exploitation in their supply chains.

Baptist World Aid notes while fair trade companies are niche, they stand out in the market for their strong management of workers’ labour rights.

Fair trade companies Etiko and Audrey Blue, which includes Mighty Good Undies, received A+ grades.

In what may come as a surprise to some, fast fashion company Zara’s parent company Inditex was the next best performer, receiving an A grade.

Overall grading (including slavery and labour rights)
The Register edited this to only include major brands relevant to New Zealand. The full list can be found here.
*Non-responsive companies

Company name  Grade
American ApparelB-
AS ColourB-
Cotton On, Cotton On Body, Cotton On KidsB+
Country RoadB+
David JonesB-
Forever NewB
Jay JaysC+
Just JeansC+
Karen WalkerC
Liminal ApparelA-
Mink PinkD+
Peter AlexanderC+
Pumpkin PatchD
R.M. WilliamsC+
Rubi ShoesB+
Sass & BideC+
Seed Heritage*F
Topman, TopshopC+
Valley GirlD+
Victoria's Secret*D+

As well as this, these brands were paying improved wages to workers in part of their supply chain:

  • Berlei
  • Bonds
  • City Chic
  • Cotton On, Cotton On Body, Cotton On Kids
  • Country Road
  • Cue
  • David Jones
  • Dotti
  • Factorie
  • Forever New
  • Glassons
  • H&M
  • Industrie 
  • Jay Jays
  • Jeanswest
  • Just Jeans
  • Karen Walker
  • Kmart
  • Kookai
  • Patagonia
  • Peter Alexander
  • Portmans
  • Rubi
  • Supre
  • Trenery
  • Witchery
  • Zara

Glassons is one New Zealand retailer that has significantly improved on last year's score. In 2015, it scored an F in the workers rights, monitoring and training, and traceability and transparency categories for not disclosing its practices. This year, it's received a C+ grade.

Hallenstein Glasson CEO Graeme Popplewell told The Register the improvement in its score reflects the hard work the company is doing to improve the conditions and rights of the people making its products. 

"There's still work to do, but we have further improvements planned both short term and long term that we will be working on with our suppliers and third parties," Popplewell says.

In November, Glassons opened up about its supply chain for the first time and shared the results of an audit with the public on its Facebook page. 

Popplewell says it's currently working with the Responsible Sourcing Network and Baptist World Aid, as well as developing further developing initiatives for improving its supply chain.

"Our Responsible Sourcing Code of Conduct sets out the requirements for our suppliers around pay, health and safety, working conditions, child labour, forced labour, employee representation and employee treatment. To ensure that these standards are adhered to, there is regular auditing by an external third party agency," he says.

Overall, retailers have improved but Baptist World Aid emphasises there is still work to be done, as 14.2 million people remain in forced labour exploitation. There are also still 168 million child labourers within the global economy.

The organisation says improving traceability will be one of the most important challenges to overcome for the industry, as inputs and raw materials sit outside the usual scope of companies and are often prone to forced and child labour.

Another area to focus on is the living wage to break the cycle of poverty for apparel workers, as minimum wages in some countries are dangerously low. Only three percent of the companies surveyed publicise data about the wages they pay to workers.

Whatever the case, Baptist World Aid says shopping ethically encourages companies to make their supply chains more ethical.

See the full Behind the Barcode report here.

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.


Retailer Ingrid Starnes shares a few of her favourite things

  • Design
  • April 26, 2017
  • Elly Strang
Retailer Ingrid Starnes shares a few of her favourite things

The Register's sister site Idealog is in the middle of celebrating Design Month. It's picked the brains of some of the most interesting individuals in the industry to find out their favourite design-related things, their not-so-secretive side hustles and what inspires them creatively. Here's fashion designer Ingrid Starnes.

Read more

Air New Zealand’s reputation has no weak spots

  • News
  • April 26, 2017
  • Sarah Dunn
Air New Zealand’s reputation has no weak spots

The latest NZ Corporate Reputation Index has ranked our national carrier New Zealand’s most reputable company, with Toyota again coming in runner-up. This is the fourth year running that the two organisations have been in the top two.

Read more

From farm girl to the bright lights of retail

  • In association with Affin Group
  • April 26, 2017
  • Affin Group
From farm girl to the bright lights of retail

Retail specialists Affin Group would like to introduce their new portfolio manager, Cecile Hayman. Hayman looks forward to serving the retail community in a job she believes is the best in the world – here’s why.

Read more
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Made in China, designed in New Zealand

  • Opinion
  • April 24, 2017
Made in China, designed in New Zealand

The recent release of the 2017 Ethical Fashion Report by Baptist World Aid Australia and Tearfund has got Kiwi designer and retailer Annah Stretton thinking about the challenges those in New Zealand's fashion industry now face.

Read more

New rules for children’s nightwear fire-hazard labels

  • News
  • April 24, 2017
  • Sarah Dunn
New rules for children’s nightwear fire-hazard labels

If you’re selling children’s clothing, you’d better check the fire-hazard labels – the rules are changing, and they could be out of date by April 18. From that date onwards, it will be illegal to sell product carrying old fire-hazard labels.

Read more
Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 09 358 7297 / 027 544 2298

View Media Kit