The 2019 Ethical Fashion Report, launched today by Tearfund New Zealand, shows some Kiwi companies are leading the charge in ethical fashion, with top performers such as Icebreaker and Kowtow outranking global brands. However, itâ€™s not all good news for New Zealand fashion, with a high number of NZ companies also represented in the D and F grades.
Tearfundâ€™s Ethical Fashion Report, compiled in partnership with Baptist World Aid Australia, has been released for another year revealing that a handful of Kiwi brands, such as Icebreaker and Kowtow, are leading the way as far as ethical fashion is concerned.
â€śAll participating New Zealand companies, except one, have held or improved their grade in the last 12 months,â€ť he says. â€śWe commend all these companies for their consistent efforts to protect workers in their supply chain,â€ť says Tearfundâ€™s CEO, Ian McInnes.The report includes 29 New Zealand companies, 11 of which are new additions for 2019.
While seven New Zealand companies were graded in the A range â€“ Icebreaker, Kowtow, Kathmandu, Nature Baby and AS Colour were among the top Kiwi performers â€“ a total of 10 local companies received grades of D or lower.
â€śThe fashion industry is moving in a particular direction and that is towards ethical practices, transparency and care for the planet,” says Claire Hart, education and advocacy manager for Tearfund. “Companies that are choosing not to disclose information about what theyâ€™re doing to combat this systemic issues are the ones that are receiving Dand F grades in theEthical Fashion Report. Ultimately these companies risk their bottom line if they fall much further behind the international trend because public demand for transparency and supply chains free of exploitation is only growing,â€ť
Apart from Ruby, all local companies at the high end of the market that were approached to participate in the report declined. These brands included Trelise Cooper, WORLD, Kate Sylvester and Karen Walker. Karen Walker rated the highest with a B grade, while Trelise Cooper rated the poorest with an F grade.
Although local low grades are disappointing, McInnes points to the fact that there is positive progressive being made close to home through initiatives such as Mindful Fashion New Zealand, which is being spearheaded by Kate Sylvester and Emily Miller-Sharma from Ruby. Brands on board with the initiative include Juliette Hogan, Maggie Marilyn, Zambesi, Paris Georgia and Kowtow. â€śIâ€™m thrilled to these designers take the necessary steps and come up with a creative solution to ensure workers are not exploited in their supply chains,” he says. â€śThe sort of positive change that will take place because of Mindful Fashion is exactly what we are seeking to achieve with the Ethical Fashion Report and we are in full support of these brandsâ€™ efforts.â€ť
In addition to the four established key areas of grading (policies, transparency and traceability, auditing and supplier relationships and worker employment), Tearfund has added a fifth grading criteria for environmental management in 2019. â€śThe fashion industry causes significant environmental degradation, which affects the wellbeing of workers, the community and their natural environment,” explains Hart. “Through assessing their materials and facilities, brands can take informed steps to reduce their environmental impact from the farm to the the final product. For these reasons, weâ€™ve chosen to expand the ethical Fashion Reportâ€™s focus beyond labour rights into environmental sustainability.”
To find out how your favourite fashion brands fared download a copy of the full Ethical Fashion Report by clicking here.