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Courtesy of Fashion Revolution

How ethical are fashion’s top brands?

To mark the start of Fashion Revolution Week, the action group releases their latest ranking

Today marks the beginning of Fashion Revolution Week, the global movement spearheaded by Fashion Revolution to make radical changes within the fashion industry. The week urges consumers to ask brands #whomademyclothes and coincides with the anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse on 24th April 2013. The incident, which killed 1,138 people, occurred hours after factory owner Mohammed Sohel Rana ignored safety warnings and refused to evacuate, leaving over 2000 people inside the building when it collapsed. Rana, who threatened staff with docked pay and violence, was accused along with 41 others in a case that is still ongoing four years later. The next hearing is to take place on May 7th. Meanwhile, brands linked to the factory including Benetton, Matalan and Primark faced few repercussions.

The Rana Plaza disaster was the biggest of its kind but, unfortunately, was not a standalone incident – other tragedies include factory fires in Karachi and Lahore on 11th September 2012 killing 289 and 25 people respectively and more recently a fire in an illegal factory five months ago in Uttar Pradesh, which killed 13 people. To make steps towards a safer and fairer industry, an annual Fashion Transparency Index was created by Fashion Revolution to score brands on their human and environmental impacts and hopefully prevent similar incidents from happening again. 

Fashion Revolution’s index rates 100 brands (including Burberry, Calvin Klein, Chanel, Prada and YSL) on five factors – policy and commitments, governance, traceability, ‘know, show & fix’ and ‘spotlight issues’ (fair wages and environmental concerns). Each of the factors explores how successful the brand is in terms of accountability, paying workers and commitments towards social issues to give a final score of transparency. 

You can download the full 2017 index here, or read some key takeaways below.


Starting with the positives, lots of brands are serious about making commitments to improving social and environmental issues. The majority of those indexed placed in the top tier, and are happy to disclose the policies they currently have in place. Half of the brands have set time-bound commitments to improving things and are already making progress towards fulfilling them. The good news is that with increased visibility on policy, brands can be held more accountable – but while companies have no problem sharing what strategies they have in place, it’s not always clear how they are implemented.


Incidents like Rana Plaza continue to happen because there is little transparency when it comes to the factories and suppliers that brands use. A company as big as the highest-scorer adidas, for example, works with 1,079 factories in 61 countries, making it quite a task to thoroughly investigate the safety procedures and pay of every single one. When it comes to protecting the people who actually work in factories, such knowledge of a supply chain is vital. Unfortunately, the majority of brands scored in the lowest tier for traceability, including 44 who scored zero because they did not disclose any details. This does not mean a brand is doing something wrong, just that they aren’t choosing to publicise their internal workings.


While there has been progress, there is still a long way to go. A big problem for Fashion Revolution is compiling the information for the index – there is no clear template for the way in which brands deliver information on social and environmental issues and brands often fill their policies with industry jargon, making it difficult to decipher what it is that they are even committing to and implementing.

Increasing transparency isn’t just limited to the index though, and Fashion Revolution hopes that it will inspire you to get involved and encourage brands to do more. You can do this by asking brands #whomademyclothes on their social media accounts, and by supporting campaigns that similarly to the index ask for brands to publish their supplier lists and supply chain information. You could also call or write to policy makers asking them to make brand transparency a requirement stopping them from scoring zero due to not disclosing anything. For more information on what you can do to help, have a look at Fashion Revolution’s guide.