Fashion Transparency: What Is It, and What Does It Actually Mean?

Fashion Revolution released its latest Fashion Transparency index last month, the fifth annual report by the campaign group ranking the amount of information disclosed by 250 of the largest fashion brands and retailers concerning social and environmental policies, practices and impacts.

H&M has celebrated being ranked the highest for transparency, a surprise to observers aware of the brands frequent sales and rock-bottom prices. This confusion, however, is the result of conflating ‘transparency’ with ‘sustainability’. The report itself admits it’s not a ‘silver bullet’, but it is one vital step in the journey towards a more environmentally friendly and ethical supply chain.

Whilst the index is not a recommended shopping guide to which companies are doing the most (or the least) for the planet, it measures how readily they disclose information as an indication of their commitment to change and openness to scrutiny.
Overall the majority of brands were found wanting; the average score was a pitiful 23%, but there were fewer brands pooling at the very bottom this year. The H&M Group achieved the highest with a rather lacklustre score of 73%, highlighting just how far the fashion industry still has to go.

Companies were much more inclined to share policies rather than actual behaviour and results, and key concerns were raised around vague commitments to ensuring fair wages, unclear purchasing practices and an industry-wide caginess towards the sourcing of raw materials.
Transparency doesn’t necessarily equate to responsibility or sustainability, although the two often go hand in hand. After all, retailers are far less inclined to welcome public inquiry if it could harm their image. It’s crucial this information becomes popular knowledge, but change is conditional on creating a general consensus that sustainability should factor into brand loyalty.

For consumer-led change, shoppers need to actively engage in pressuring brands for greater transparency and accountability, leaving no option but to improve private practice or risk public condemnation.
If you would like to get involved in the campaign, Fashion Revolution is encouraging all consumers to tag their favourite brands on social media using #WhoMadeMyClothes.

By Rebecca Taylor