Fashion

Fast Fashion King H&M Group Takes the Crown in 2020 Transparency Index

Which brands place a high value on people and the planet?
IMAGE PIXNIO/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
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Fast fashion labels have long had a bad rap for producing too many clothes, a practice that burdens the Earth and may also harm the very workers who are tasked to make these pieces in sometimes unsavory conditions.

But now, one of the leading high street giants, the H&M Group, which houses brands such as H&M, COS, and Arket, among others, has made its way to the top of the Fashion Transparency Index, proving that companies are becoming more mindful and can, in fact, shift toward better practices.

The study by Fashion Revolution, the group that works to transform the fashion industry into one that values the environment and people, measures the transparency of 250 global fashion brands and retailers, ranking them according to “how much they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices, and impacts.”

This year, the H&M Group lands at the top spot with a score of 73 percent. The Swedish company is followed by C&A (a European fast fashion retailer), Adidas and Reebok, Esprit, and Marks & Spencer. The scores are based on an array of 220 indicators, including animal welfare, forced labor, gender equality, supplier disclosure, waste and recycling, working conditions, among others. Below are the top 10 brands and their ratings:

1| H&M, 73 percent 

2| C&A, 70 percent

3| Adidas/ Reebok, 60 percent

4| Esprit, 64 percent

5| Marks & Spencer, 60 percent

6| Patagonia, 60 percent

7| The North Face/ Timberland/ Vans/ Wrangler, 59 percent

8| Puma, 57 percent

9| ASOS, 55 percent

10| Converse/ Jordan/ Nike, 55 percent

Though fast fashion brands lead the index, luxury houses have shown improvement this year. Gucci scores 48 percent, leading the category, with Balenciaga (47 percent), Saint Laurent (47 percent), and Bottega Veneta (46 percent) not far behind. The report also shares that Ermenegildo Zegna is “the first luxury brand to publish a detailed supplier list” and Hermès has been sharing information on its manufacturers and suppliers for years. 

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Those who can do better include Bally, Jessica Simpson, Tom Ford, among others. Each scored zero in the transparency index. 

Fashion Revolution notes that transparency “isn’t about which brand does the best, but about who discloses the most information.” And though brands may release a lot of policies and practices to the public, “this doesn’t mean they are acting in a sustainable or ethical manner,” as well.

Companies, for example, may share policies but not their implementation or results. They may release information that places them in a good light, a sort of greenwashing, but not divulge data on, say, the pay for supply chain workers. They may also dump a ton of information, which makes it hard to assess what they’re really doing.

For the last four years, H&M has been in the top five of the transparency index, starting at 48 percent in 2017 and jumping to 73 percent this year. The group reports how “it was one of the first global fashion retailers to make its supplier list public” in 2013. Right now, you can find information (production country, supplier and factory names and addresses, number of workers in the factory, materials) about almost all of its products on hm.com. 

“We are committed to continue taking steps for greater transparency so customers can make informed decisions and drive a positive impact in the industry through our extensive work to become fully circular and climate positive, while being a fair and equal company,” says Hanna Hallin, global strategy lead for transparency at H&M Group. 

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In the statement, the group also makes a powerful statement, declaring “how fashion should never be seen as waste.” Today's climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic have heightened the need to change how companies produce clothes and how people consume these products. 

The “pursuit of endless growth is in itself unsustainable,” notes Fashion Revolution. Businesses around the world are inclined to chase higher and higher targets for profit and production, sometimes with little mind about how to get there. Now that the Earth is fighting back, shattering the rule of men with a deadly virus, it's time to rethink strategies and implement practices that value life. 

Read the full report here.

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Clifford Olanday
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