Ethical fashion report finds major Australian brands need to 'lift their game'


Australia's major fashion brands are trailing their multinational counterparts when it comes to workers' rights and transparency in global supply chains.

The 2017 Ethical Fashion Report graded 106 apparel companies that sell their products in Australia, comprising 330 brands, from A to F.

The Baptist World Aid annual report card shows that some outfits such as Cotton On Group and Kmart have made progress, but nearly three-quarters of the companies that scored a D+ or worse are headquartered in Australia.

The 2017 report praised multinationals Patagonia and Zara for their practices with both scoring an A grade.

It showed only three of the 15 brands that scored an A or higher were headquartered in Australia, and they were niche ethical producers.

"For Australia to stay competitive in the ethical backing space, they're going to have to lift their game," Baptist World Aid spokesman Gershon Nimbalker told AAP.

The research showed steady progress towards paying workers a living wage to cover the basics such as food, water and clothing.

In 2013, only 11 per cent of companies were investing towards better wages, but the 2017 results showed 42 per cent were heading in the right direction.

Mighty Good Undies was the only company that could prove it paid all workers a living wage.

The report also showed more than three-quarters of the companies traced their manufacturing suppliers in the final stage of supply, but Mr Nimbalker said the risk of worker exploitation remained deeper into the chain.

"If companies don't know or don't care who their suppliers are, there's virtually no way for them to ensure workers' rights are being upheld throughout their supply chains," he said.

"We think it's critical that they know all their suppliers."

Only seven per cent of companies knew where their cotton was coming from.

Many companies, including Big W, Cotton On Group, Esprit, Jeanswest and RM Williams, have begun publishing full supplier lists.

Twenty-six per cent of businesses now make that information available, up from 16 per cent in 2016.

Mr Nimbalker said companies were acknowledging they had to be transparent to build trust with the public.

"We really want them (consumers) to vote with their wallets and preference those companies that are doing more to ensure workers are protected," he said.

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  •  26 per cent publish a supplier list
  • 72 per cent rating 'D' grading or lower headquartered in Australia
  • 81 per cent trace fabric suppliers
  • Highest marks: Adidas Group, APG & Co, Cotton On Group, Etiko, Freeset, Inditex, Kowtow, Liminal Apparel, Mighty Good Undies, Nudie Jeans, Pacific Brands, Patagonia, RREPP
  • Lowest marks: Ally Fashion, Betts, Decjuba, Farmers, Oxford, Roger David, Wish - all non-responsive

Source: Baptist World Aid Australia

Source AAP

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