A Huge Response

The response to this year’s report has been huge!

We’ve featured on Buzz Feed, ABC Breakfast, 9 News, SBS World News, in Fairfax and Newscorp newspapers, in the Guardian, in trade podcasts, on the Australian Christian Channel, and on dozens of radio stations across the country.
And thanks to the involvement of Tearfund New Zealand, our new Ethical Fashion Report partner, media coverage across the ditch has exploded as well.

More companies than ever before engaged with the research process in 2017. 83% in fact, up from 49% in 2013, when we first began this project.

In the wake of the report’s media launch, we have heard from many companies. Well rated companies are basking in the glow of the positive PR, while those that weren’t rated so well have communicated that they’re feeling the impact too (hopefully they take this opportunity to improve their systems and transparency).

scorecardCan’t find your favourite band? Head to behindthebarcode.org.au and use our fast finder for the full list.

But what does it all mean?

All this exposure signifies that there’s change in the air. And change is what we need.

In the past, I have felt pretty hopeful about the journey the Australian (and New Zealand) fashion industry has been on.

When we began this research four years ago, companies told us that there was no way they’d disclose their supplier list. “That’s commercially sensitive information,” they’d say. We were also told that it was impossible to trace back to our cotton suppliers (“Do you know how many cotton farmers supply our mills?”).

The tune, however, is very different today. 26% of companies now disclose their supplier lists, up from just 16% last year. This sort of transparency makes a big statement about the willingness of companies to be held to account, and the confidence that they have in their own systems. Companies like Big W, Cotton-On, and Pacific Brands all disclosed their supplier lists in the last 12 months. And, after its F grade in 2016, Brand Collective (Mossimo, Grosby, Clarks, Shoe Warehouse, and others) has also taken huge steps forward in transparency. It publicly shared supplier lists and disclosed information about how it upholds worker rights. In 2017, Brand Collective received a C!

Furthermore, 45% of companies are now actively tracing their cotton suppliers – which would seem to suggest its less impossible than the industry once claimed. Through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), companies have worked, collaboratively, with farmers and not for profits to come up with innovative solutions to improve their cotton supply chains and trace their cotton suppliers. BCI is set to make up 30% of the market in the next 3 years, and companies like Nike, Adidas, H&M, and Cotton-On are committing to have 100% BCI cotton (or other sustainable cotton) in the next few years.

So, there are lots of reasons for positivity. But, to be honest, I’m still pretty frustrated by where we are. I know that change doesn’t happen all at once, I know that these things take time… but the system is far more broken than it has any excuse to be.

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, an industrial accident that claimed the lives of 1,134 garment workers. But even after an event of such a tragic nature, the profits of the fashion industry continue to climb every year. And we, who are lucky to live in Australia, are paid more than 70 times the amount that garment workers in Bangladesh receive for making our clothes. What’s more, the vast majority of the 40 million garment workers in the Asia Pacific region work long hours, often in unsafe conditions, for wages that are set so low that they are left trapped in poverty.

In this context, it’s not right that only 10% of companies could demonstrate the majority of their workers were being paid a living wage. And even then, it was only for one stage of their supply chain (manufacturing).
It’s just not right. And I know we can do more.

What you can do

  1. Purchase ethically. Every dollar you spend based on an ethical decision sends a message to companies about how you want your clothes made. Go to behindthebarcode.org.au to order our handy ethical purchasing guide, which you can take with you when you shop. You can also download our full report to find out what’s really happening in the fashion industry.
  2. Speak out to companies. Write to companies and engage with them online – congratulate them for their efforts but call on them to do more, ask them to pay their workers a living wage. Send a postcard to Roger David.
  3. Promote the report. Share it on social media, talk to your friends about it and get them purchasing ethically too.