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Why South African corporate fashion brands scored badly in the Transparency Index

by | May 19, 2020

Four South African brands were assessed by Fashion Revolution for its Transparency Index 2020 which was released last month. All of them scored within the 11 – 20% range, which is below average.

While this is the second year Mr Price was scored, Truworths, Woolworths and Foschini, are new to the index. Woolworths scored 19%, Mr Price 16%, Truworths 15% and Foschini 14%.  Woolworths and Mr Price scored 1% for the traceability of their factories, processing facilities and raw materials, while Foschini and Truworths both scored 0%.

The index, which assesses companies with an annual turnover of more than $400 million USD, is not a shopping guide. Its purpose, according to Fashion Revolution, “is to understand how much social and environmental information is shared by the world’s largest brands, to drive greater disclosure from them and to use this information to hold them to account when needed”.

The scoring is done independently of each evaluated company but the companies did have the opportunity to review a draft scorecard.

Sienna Somers of Fashion Revolution says, “Interestingly, when you look at the data for all of the South African brands, they mostly score around average for ‘policy and commitments’ – this is where we look at what policies and goals brands have and how they put them into action. However, when you look at ‘traceability’, the South African brands lag behind! None of the South African brands we reviewed publish any supplier lists! Supplier lists are essential to help trade unions and worker-rights organisations to address and fix problems in the factories.”

The Woolworths press office responded to our request for comment saying, “The Fashion Revolution Transparency Index unfortunately only evaluates publicly available information and although we have policies and practices in place they are not currently publicly available.” The company is reviewing its level of disclosure and will work to increase the disclosure of relevant information.

Mymoena Moorad of TFG which owns Truworths and Foschini said, “Sustainability is a journey, which we are committed to progressing on. At the start of our journey, we invested millions into black-owned factories and fashion designers, job creation, training and providing basic needs to communities across South Africa. This is the first time TFG has participated [in the Transparency Index]; by opting into this survey it will help us build a road map to a better, more sustainable future.”

According to Sienna, brands that engage in the process year-on-year, tend to see their score increase more. For example, Mr Price increased its score by 2% this year which is encouraging progress. She says, “We hope that by being included in the Index for the first time, this is an opportunity for Truworths, Woolworths and Foschini to improve.”

Fashion Revolution encourages brands to publish first-tier manufacturers. “These are the facilities that do the cutting, sewing and finishing off of garments in the final stages of production,” says Sienna. “We don’t want brands to stop there, we want to see brands disclose their supply chain right down to the raw material level, for example, the cotton farms.”

Mr Price did not respond to email requests for comment.

Gucci is the highest scoring luxury brand with a score of 48%. Top scorer, H&M with 73% has seen a marked increase since its first score of 48% in 2017.

Transparency is deemed important because once information is public, a brand can be held accountable. Fashion Revolution states, “We believe transparency is the first step in holding these big brands to account for the human rights and the environmental impact of their business practices”.

You can read the Transparency Index here.

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