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April 24, 2020

Vogue Business: Covid-19 and Brand Transparency

Vogue Business looks at Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index tool...

Vogue Business explores the importance of brand transparency during the Covid-19 pandemic crisis…

Fashion Revolution, in analysing 250 brands for its Fashion Transparency Index 2020, found that brands are increasingly disclosing their policies and commitments on environmental and social issues, but progress needs to be made in clearly communicating their implementation.

The Index measures fashion brands with annual revenue above $400 million across a total of 55,000 individual data points. Brands receive points, from 0 to a maximum of 250, for how granular their disclosure is of their social and environmental policies, practices and impacts, including supplier disclosure, living wages and waste and recycling, which are then translated to percentage points. This year, the average score across all brands was 23 per cent, an increase of two percentage points over last year, but still a considerably low score.

Fast fashion chains and sportswear brands dominated the top 10, with H&M leading at 73 per cent, followed by Belgian retail chain C&A, Adidas (including Reebok), Esprit and, in a joint position, UK supermarket brand Marks and Spencer and US outerwear brand Patagonia. Fast fashion and sportswear have traditionally performed better in the Index as these sectors have been under harsh public scrutiny since at least the 1990s, forcing them to make their business practices more transparent.

Luxury, on the other hand, is lagging. Aside from Gucci, the highest-scoring at 48 per cent, Kering-owned Balenciaga, Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta, as well as Hugo Boss, scored below 40 per cent. The sector has traditionally been secretive and protective about its sourcing and manufacturing, on the grounds of guarding such information as a trade secret.

According to Carry Somers, founder of Fashion Revolution, they can’t use that excuse anymore.

The annual Index, which ranks the 250 global brands and retailers according to the level of publicly available information on their approach to social and environmental issues and practices, has an added value this year. As financial difficulties and trade disruptions brought by the pandemic strain brands and retailers, transparency is key for consumers to scrutinise if companies will continue to honour their commitments, both on environmental and social issues. On the other hand, while brands that are reticent to publicly disclose their practices are less vulnerable to judgment, their reservations could read negatively for consumers.

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