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It’s Fashion Revolution Week! This means a week of discussion and awareness-raising campaigns about the lack of transparency among other important issues within the fashion industry.

For over 15 years researchers at The Good Shopping Guide have been investigating and ranking the world’s fashion brands for overall company ethics. In that time, the mission hasn’t always been easy. A lack of transparency is one hurdle.

Today, our independent, unbiased research and comprehensive ethical rankings includes a list of 36 brands and counting. In our regularly expanding list, we work hard to offer authoritative and comprehensive research which results in a reliable and trustworthy ranking system.

Over the last year, since Fashion Revolution Week 2016, we’ve noticed some positive and negative changes to the fashion rankings. The list of ethical and highly-rated brands has expanded, which is cause for some celebration. H&M is one globally popular brand that made a noteworthy climb to into the most ethical list.

On the other hand, it is disappointing to see Topman, Topshop and the Gap continue to ranking very low.

Some of the core issues

Human rights

Clothes, like any other consumable goods, have a history. In the case of the fashion industry, that history usually involves people in poorer, less developed countries being sourced for cheap labour. This doesn’t necessarily mean exploitation. However, supply chains are complex and sadly, companies are frequently found to be sourcing from factories where workers are not treated fairly and/or their health and safety is put at risk.

Sustainability

The sustainability of the fashion industry is another pressing issue that cannot go unresolved. It is great to see discussion increasing, and we hope this trend continues. The best thing for fashion brands is to not run and hide from the lack of sustainability in their supply chains; but to embrace the problem and assist in creating and inspiring change across the industry. As we see with such Ethically Accredited brands as Po-Zu, another way is possible and the industry should keep looking forward.

Transparency

Out of the 100 brands reviewed as part of the 2017 Fashion Transparency Index, it has been cited that 32 are publishing supplier lists.

Courtesy of Fashion Revolution

A good example from our research about the lack of transparency in the fashion industry and the complexity of independent investigation can be found in our findings regard The Gap’s supply chain. The problem here is that while Gap has a decent code of conduct, a 2016 paper published by the Indian Committee of the Netherlands gave quite significant evidence of appalling living conditions and restricted freedom of movement of young migrant garment workers in the Indian city of Bangalore. It found that an increasing number of young migrant women workers were staying in factory-owned hostels with poor living conditions while their movement is severely restricted and the wages of the workers did not add up to a decent living wage.  Some companies, including Gap, have signed up to the Ethical Trading Initiative. This is a step in the right direction, but it certainly doesn’t guarantee truly ethical practices.

Greenwashing and other forms of PR spin

As public pressure continues to increase and push businesses to becoming more ethical, there also seems to be a rise in greenwashing and other forms of PR spin. Deceptive marketing used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are “safe”, “fair”, “ethical”, and so on is of course nothing new. But it is wise to remember to think critically, and reference reliable and trustworthy sources to confirm (or not) the company’s message. Oftentimes the reality behind the brand isn’t as fair and ethical as we’d like to believe.

In addition to The Good Shopping Guide, two other resources the engaged reader might want to check out this week include the Fashion Revolution  and The Better Shoe Foundation. Also leave your own suggestions and thoughts in the comments section.

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