The good news is that people are becoming more aware of where the goods they are purchasing come from, and what it took to get them from material to what you are wearing right now.
The bad news is that, just because we are aware of the issue, doesn’t mean that things have changed much as far as the fashion industry goes. A new study conducted by Not For Sale took a look at over 300 brands to see what practices each were using and gave them each a grade, taking into account every part of the process of making clothes, starting with the growing of materials all the way to delivering the clothes to the store. The outcome was not good: while the number of fair trade certified clothing companies grew 75% last year, many companies are still relying on slave labor to produce the clothes they sell.
Companies ranking high — receiving either an A or a B grade — include Gap, Timberland, and Hanes. Companies ranking low — receiving either a D or an F grade — include Forever 21, Fruit of the Loom, Walmart, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Aeropostale. Not many companies scored high on the list, and many of today’s popular companies scored incredibly low. You can view the entire report here.
According to Not For Sale:
Ratings only indicate how companies are addressing the particular issue of modern slavery and do not reflect the overall measure of general supply chain working conditions. For example, while Adidas receives a BĚ campaigning is currently underway in response to the company’s refusal to pay over a million dollars in wages owed to Indonesian workers.
The report details reasons for each ranking, and breaks down the information by company. This is incredibly helpful for activists who want to use their money to make a point – when we know how our clothing is made and why it costs what it does, we might be more willing to boycott companies who use inappropriate business practices. For example, Gap received a B rating because they don’t use raw materials from worker-owned farms, but they also champion workers’ rights and refuse to use child labor. H&M received a similar rating for similar reasons. Walmart doesn’t pay living wages to their workers, even though they address working conditions and restrictions on the age of workers. Lacoste, however, failed across the board.
The best thing for us to do now that we have the information is to share it and use our money to show these companies that their business practices are not appropriate or acceptable. The Not For Sale report includes a color-coded graphic that shows the breakdown of which companies got what grade and why. Share that graphic with those around you, especially with the holiday season coming up. We need to be aware of what we are buying from where, especially when it comes to clothing.
Photo Credit: Thing Three