How sustainable are your favourite brands?

News, blog and backgrounds about the sustainability scores of brands

FeelGoodFashion Report 2014

How socially and ecologically responsible are Fashion brands in 2014? Rank a Brand’s latest research report puts international fashion brands under the spotlight, with an examination of the action they are taking on fair labour conditions reducing climate impacts, and protecting the environment.

The majority of international mainstream-brands researched don´t do enough to give shoppers a good feeling when it comes to the sustainability credentials of the clothing they produce. Only 34 of the 368 fashion brands researched are performing at a high level in terms of sustainability, and therefore scored an A- or B-Label at Rank a Brand. This includes a significant number of A-Label brands which already have a reputation as “green” fashion brands and are mainly available on the German and Dutch markets (Rank a Brand”s home countries).

However, it is encouraging to see that some of the biggest international brands are starting to get serious about making corporate social responsibility a part of their business operations. G-Star, H&M, Jack Wolfskin, Nike, Patagonia, Puma, Timberland and Vaude all deserve credit for their performance; these are the brands leading the way in achieving results and making reporting transparent – they are fixing the sustainability problems in their supply chain and showing that they can protect the climate, environment and human rights at the same time as producing clothing that is in high demand.

The Summary of Results is now available for free download

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Compared  with Rank a Brand’s 2011 report, the latest research found that communicating about sustainability increased by 10%, up to 63%, and 20% of brands now go to the effort of publishing a sustainability report. These figures show that sustainability in the fashion industry is becoming a mainstream topic. The assumption that sustainable fashion is just  “eco-chic“ and a niche interest has been disproved by our report. In 2014 the topics of climate-, environmental-, and human rights protection have become key success factors for strong brands.

However a large number of the fashion brands researched create the impression that they are doing the right thing for sustainability, but then fail to produce relevant and tangible information about the action they are taking. Rank a Brand have placed 30% of communicating fashion brands they researched on their Greenwashing Alert. These are the brands which only score an E-Label for sustainability action, even though they communicate about  sustainability. These brands appear to talk about sustainability rather than taking positive action. They run the risk of being accused of Greenwashing and ultimately that could turn consumers away online casino from them.

Outdoor and sport brands are performing best, but luxury and children’s clothing brands are lagging behind.

For all themes researched by Rank a Brand – climate protection, environmental protection and labour conditions – outdoor and sport brands always perform above average. The use of more environmentally friendly raw materials and measures to avoid the use of hazardous chemicals are examples of where they are leading the way.

In contrast, luxury and children’s clothing brands are performing poorly. Brands from these sectors seldom indicate that sustainability is a subject of significance for their business operations.

Fair labour conditions is the highest priority action area for fashion brands.

Compared to action on climate change and environmental protection, fashion brands are most often prioritising action on fair labour conditions. While 50% of all brands researched report on the implementation of climate protection measures, only 4% of all brands are able to show that they have made a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

We found a similar pattern for environmental protection measures; many brands report on the use of environmentally preferred raw materials, such as organic cotton or recycled polyester. However, only a small number of brands are clear about the overall share of such materials in their production. In addition, only 3% of the fashion brands researched manufacture their clothing from 100% environmentally preferred raw materials.

Based on the sustainability actions being undertaken by brands, fair labour conditions is currently being given the highest priority. 53% of fashion brands researched publish a supplier code of conduct, which includes the following ILO standards: No forced or slave labour, no child labour, no discrimination of any kind and a safe and hygienic workplace. However, only 21% of brands in the report also make it clear that at least two of the following workers rights are mandatory: to have a formally registered employment relationship, to have a maximum working week of 48 hours with voluntary and paid overtime of 12 hours maximum, to have a sufficient living wage. Also, only 31% of the brands researched demand that workers in their supply chain have the right to form and join trade unions and bargain collectively.

A Code of Conduct is worthless if it is not actually implemented. 33% of the fashion brands we examined have joined at least one Multi-Stakeholder-Initiative and / or produce a significant share of their clothing in socially certified production facilities and / or in countries which are considered to be low-risk for the exploitation of workers. This figure is encouraging but it also shows that the fashion industry is only just beginning to take social responsibility seriously in its supply chains. At the moment only 9% of fashion brands produce convincing reports showing that their supply chain complies with fair labour conditions. Also, only 7% of the fashion brands researched are transparent to the extent that they have published a list of direct suppliers, that collectively contributed to more than 90% of the brand’s purchase volume.

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