The Baptists World Aid’s 2015 Fashion Report has found just five percent of companies it surveyed are paying international suppliers workers a living wage that meets their basic needs. The survey, which assesses the ethical practices of 128 clothing brands, aims to increase awareness around purchasing ethically.
The survey was first launched after the collapse of a Bangladeshi clothing factory in 2012, which killed more than 1100 workers.
Baptist World Aid says the event sparked the collective conscience of retailers, consumers, investors and governments to learn more about workers producing clothes and how well they are treated.
The survey comes at a time when both consumers and employees in New Zealand value the importance of ethical companies more than ever.
A 2014 Colmar Brunton survey found 70 percent of New Zealanders want to work for a sustainable company and 90 percent of them want to buy ethically and socially responsible products.
Baptist World Aid says Kmart and Cotton On are retailers that have made significant improvements since the last survey in 2013.
Kmart has released a complete list of its direct suppliers to increase transparency, while The Cotton On Group has improved the traceability of suppliers in its supply chain.
The Cotton On Group was also found to be the highest rated non-fair-trade Australian retailer.
Country Road, The Sussan Group and Cue also came out looking good, and have improved workers’ wages.
Advocacy manager at Baptist World Aid, Gershon Nimbalker, says one of the most troubling facts was that few companies they surveyed knew the suppliers producing the clothes they sold.
The research revealed 91 percent of companies don’t know where their cotton comes from, and 75 percent don’t know the source of all their fabrics.
“While 39 percent of companies knew all, or almost all, of the suppliers involved at the factory level, that number dropped dramatically to 7 percent at the raw materials stage of production,” Nimbalker says.
“If companies don’t know or don’t care who is producing their clothes, it’s much harder to know whether workers are exploited or even enslaved.”
Some of the worst-rating brands in the survey were Glassons; Just Group, which owns Just Jeans; Portmans; Jay Jay’s; Peter Alexander and Dotti, and fast retail brands like Valley Girl, Industrie and Tempt.
They all received D or F grades.
Just Group received a D grade overall across several categories, such as transparency, training of workers and policies. It received an F grade for workers rights.
“We could find little evidence that any of these fashion retailers were doing much, if anything, to protect workers overseas. Many of them had little or no publicly available information and/or didn’t respond to any of our requests to engage with the research process,” Baptist World Aid says.
See the full 2015 report here.