The fourth Australian Ethical Clothing Guide has just been released, and this time, thanks to Tearfund, New Zealand fashionistas are getting their own version. Amongst top international brands – including the likes of Zara and H&M – the New Zealand guide includes 12 Kiwi owned-and-operated brands and companies.
“New Zealand companies ended up with a grade of B-, the global median is C+,” explains Tearfund education advocacy manager Murray Sheard. “We were pleasantly surprised about that. New Zealand companies are not great in the transparency of their suppliers, one of the interesting things is that this was true of the Australian brands four years ago when the report started,” he says. “Since it’s been going, year on year, brands have increased their grades in this area. Kiwi companies are starting from a low bar. It’s really encouraging, we can see how companies can improve and we want to help them to do that.”
Kowtow came out on top receiving an ‘A’ – the highest grade given to the Kiwi brands included. “We were excited when Baptist World Aid approached us to take part in the survey.The questions are very stringent and a lot of supporting evidence has to be submitted. To be given the highest grade of all New Zealand fashion businesses shows that we really are who we say we are. No green washing,” says art director and founder, Gosia Piatek. “We are proud to show that you can have a successful fashion brand without compromising on sustainability and ethics.”
“The first thing the research team does is invite companies to be part of the research, the first step is assessing information that’s publically available from each company or brand. From that we get a preliminary grade,” explains Tearfund project manager, ClaireHart. The preliminary grade is then sent through to the company and they are invited to engage further with the research. “We sit down with them and look at information that they have that’s not publically available and we come to a point where we decide on a grade that we both think really reflects the company. If a company chooses not to participate then we can only base the grade of the publically available information.”
All companies involved are assessed across four areas: policies, knowing your suppliers, auditing and supplier relationships, and worker empowerment. The final grade is an average of all these grades. “A company might get a real spread of results,” explains Hart.Hart explains that a higher grade indicates that the company has a labour rights system that, if they are implementing it will highly reduce the risk of worker exploitation. “A lower grade means that a company is not doing these initiatives or is choosing not to disclose them.” Some companies, Hart uses Nike and The The Warehouse as examples, have great commitments to public transparency already. “If they don’t engage, but because they already have so much information out there, we can learn about them and they get quite a good grade.”
Download the report here and grab the June issue of MiNDFOOD, on sale 1 June, to read our feature on ethical fashion.