How did H&M top the 2020 Fashion Transparency Index?

How did H&M top the 2020 Fashion Transparency Index?

It’s Fashion Revolution Week 2020, a week where we come together to ask Who Made My Clothes and address critical issues within the fashion industry. It’s also the week when Fashion Revolution releases its Fashion Transparency Index, a report that rates 250 brands on how much information they disclose with the public. We believe transparency is one of the most important topics of discussion within the ethical fashion world, but we have one obvious question about the report: How did H&M top the 2020 Fashion Transparency Index? 

Now before we go any further, we’d just like to point out that we are big supporters of Fashion Revolution. We believe it’s been pivotal in educating millions around the globe about the issues within the fashion industry and we’ll continue to support the cause and its commitment to creating a better industry. We also agree that transparency is key in holding brands accountable and creating a cleaner, more ethical fashion industry. But to be totally honest with you, we were initially shocked and now we’re just plain frustrated with these findings. This report makes the already muddy waters of ethical fashion more like a gigantic tidal wave of confusion. 

So how did it happen?

To be clear, we’re not saying these findings are false. Fashion Revolution has worked hard to create a thorough methodology on how they grade these brands. They rank 250 global brands that turn over 400 million USD per year based on how much they disclose about their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts. 

Sarah ditty, the policy director at Fashion Revolution and the author of the report, told The Guardian, “It is not an examination of how ethical or sustainable the brands are but rather measures their transparency.” 

So, the report is solely focused on transparency and acknowledges steps in the right direction? Great! We’re totally on board with that. But in the case of H&M and similar brands on the list, no matter what steps you take in the right direction, you’ll always be a fast fashion brand – and that’s what makes this so frustrating. H&M are known for overproducing and not paying their workers living wages, and by ranking them number one in a report organised by a movement proponing for a more ethical industry only leaves consumers scratching their heads. 

Sure, H&M is working hard to do better and they’re becoming more and more transparent as the years go on, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to shop with a polluting, unethical fast fashion brand just because they’ve topped a report. And that’s our biggest concern, that this ranking will only tell consumers to go ahead and continue supporting fast fashion brands that pollute and exploit. We voiced similar frustrations with the Baptist World Aid report, that admits ‘if a brand receives a high grade it does not mean it has a supply chain which is free from exploitation.’ It’s no wonder people are left feeling confused.

The report itself highlights some further issues:

  • Brands are strategically and deliberately repeating information over and over again with jargon and fluffy storytelling as a way to look more transparent than they really are.
  • The majority of brands and retailers publish little information about their efforts, if any, to improve pay and achieve living wages in the supply chain. Less than a quarter of brands disclose the company’s approach to achieving the payment of living wages to workers in the supply chain.
  • Most brands don’t disclose any information about their purchasing practices.
  • The brand that came in at second place, C&A, is refusing to pay for its orders due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Another head-scratcher!

What can you do?

If in doubt, shop ethically. 

If you’re reading reports such as this and thinking ‘So, can I shop with H&M or not?’ Go with your gut. If you’re suspicious that a brand is greenwashing, just avoid it. Instead…

  • The best purchase is no purchase at all
  • The second-best option is to wear and repair what you already have or swap or rent your clothes
  • The third-best option is to use the Ethical Made Easy brand directory to discover the most ethical brands available and only shop with them. Support brands that are transparent about labour rights and their impact on the environment and don’t be scared to ask questions.
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