Only 32 percent of the top 100 global fashion brands are somewhat transparent about their value chains, publishing complete supplier lists for their customers to make informed purchasing decisions, according to the Fashion Transparency Index 2017.
The Fashion Transparency Index ranks the clothing brands every year according to how much they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact.
Last year only 12.5 percent of the 40 companies surveyed by Fashion Revolution, a not-for-profit ethical initiative catalysed by the Rana Plaza disaster, were publishing supplier lists.
On average, brands scored just 20 percent transparency, and none scored above 50 percent.
By 100 percent transparency, Fashion Revolution means brands being aware of exactly who make their products -- from who stitched them right through to who dyed the fabric and who farmed the cotton. And crucially, it requires brands to share this information publicly.
“People have the right to know that their money is not supporting exploitation, human rights abuses and environmental destruction,” said Carry Somers, Fashion Revolution's founder and global operations director. “There is no way to hold companies and governments to account if we can't see what is truly happening behind the scenes. This is why transparency is so essential,” she said.
The brands' transparency performances were reviewed in five key areas including policy and commitments, governance, traceability, supplier assessment and spotlight issues.
This year, Adidas and Reebok came out on top with 121.5 out of 250 points, closely followed by Marks & Spencer and H&M.
Three brands, including luxury fashion brand Dior, scored zero as they disclose no information at all.
Transparency is more important when Bangladesh is involved, as the country is the second largest supplier of clothing items worldwide after China, said Mostafiz Uddin, chief executive officer and founder of Bangladesh Denim Expo.
“The complexity and fragmentation of the fashion supply chain was brought home to me after the Rana Plaza factory collapse, when campaigners had to physically search through the rubble for clothing labels to prove which brands were producing in there,” Somers added.
Transparency is the foundation on which trust-based businesses are built across the entire value chain, right from the final consumer through to the farmer who grows the cotton, Mostafiz Uddin said.
“Everyone along the value chain must get fair treatment, get the right value for their investment, whether in terms of time, effort or money claims,” he added.
In light of this, the seventh edition of Mostafiz Uddin's pet project, Bangladesh Denim Expo, due to be held on November 8-9 in Dhaka, will be set around the theme of transparency.
The exhibition will highlight the need for transparency within the entire denim development chain, showing the progresses made by Bangladesh denim factories towards achieving greater transparency.
A total of 61 exhibitors from 11 countries will showcase denim products at the expo to be held at the International Convention City Bashundhara. Of the exhibitors, 44 would be foreign and 17 local.
There would be at least eight seminars and sessions for the CEOs, merchandisers and managers of globally-renowned fashion brands to speak on the matter of transparency in the apparel supply chain.
Topics include the meaning of transparency in fashion industry and spotlight on the hidden journey that brings a garment to a consumer.