Fashion and ethics: How do Australian brands rate?

Less than 10 per cent of Australian fashion brands scored an A or A+ on an annual report into ethical fashion production around the world.

Australians are known for their love of fast fashion.

Australians are known for their love of fast fashion. Source: AAP

If Australian fashion brands were rated on ethics over style, less than 10 per cent would score an A or A+.

The has graded 114 apparel companies, revealing Australian brands have achieved a median C rating, closing the gap on their overseas counterparts (median score of B-) for transparency in global supply chains and workers' rights.

The Baptist World Aid Australia annual report, published on Wednesday, comes a week before the fifth anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse that killed more than 1100 people in Bangladesh in 2013 and sparked a push for change in safety standards across the industry.

Wish Designs was among eight Australian brands that failed the ethics test, according to the report.
Wish Designs was among eight Australian brands that failed the ethics test, according to the report. Source: AAP

Since the factory collapse, the fashion industry has made some headway in improving supply chain transparency, with 35 per cent of companies now publishing full direct supplier lists, according to the report.

In comparison, brands fared badly on tackling workers' rights with only five per cent able to prove they were paying all their workers a living wage.

A further 12 per cent showed they were paying some of their workers a living wage, while 70 per cent of the industry is yet to take significant action to improve worker wages, the report showed.

Out of the 61 Australian fashion brands listed, eight flunked with an F rating, including Bras N Things, Decjuba, Ally Fashion and Wish Designs after failing to respond to the questionnaire.

Decjuba on Wednesday rejected the F rating, pointing out it was a non-participant in the survey.

"The ratings system is based on information submitted by participating companies and the Baptist World Aid research team do not conduct site inspections to verify these details," it said in a statement.

"Each of our factories is audited by an external regulator, and our team visit the factories that we partner with to ensure that our code of conduct is being upheld."

On the top of the list niche brands dominated, with three A+ scores going to Etiko, Mighty Good Group and Outland Denim.

But some players within the fast fashion industry have worked hard to improve their practices, and report card.

Baptist World Aid Advocacy Manager Gershon Nimbalker says a number of brands have been spurred to change, such as Cotton On, which scored an A on the report and topped the list for multinationals headquartered in Australia.

Other fast fashion brands such as Kmart, Jeanswest and Target all scored either a B or B+.

Outland Denim rated well.
Outland Denim rated well. Source:

"When we first started the reports (2013), Aussies were well behind their international brands, but it was a wake up call for the industry," Mr Nimbalker told AAP.

"We've seen them playing a pretty impressive game of catch up.

"Cotton On is one of the most iconic examples, they've worked closely with us to push themselves forward."

Mr Nimbalker said consumers should vote with their wallet, checking the report for company scorecards.

"If their favourite brands aren't doing enough, it's a great opportunity to reach out to them."



3 min read
Published 18 April 2018 at 1:32pm