Frequently Asked Questions

General FAQs

“Footwear: An Industry Laced with Exploitation” is our in-depth exposé article on some of the injustices in the footwear industry, and incorporates the findings from our research into the footwear industry both in New Zealand and globally as well as stories from the frontlines of the footwear industry and tips for how to tread lighter for people and the planet! 

The fashion industry has made billions of dollars in profit from exploiting workers and failing to pay the price for its environmental impact. There are over 60 million people who work in the global fashion industry. The industry has had positive impact; it has fuelled the growth of economies and facilitated millions of people migrating from lives of subsistence rural agriculture into factory work with hope of a better life.  

However, the industry is facing some serious challenges.  It is responsible for a significant amount of global greenhouse gas emissions and the majority of workers in fashion supply chains do not earn enough to meet their basic needs.  The recent estimates show there are 28 million people trapped in forced labour, a form of Modern Slavery. Fashion is one of the industries at most risk of having modern slavery occurring in its supply chain, and footwear is the third-largest Kiwi import at highest risk of being produced with slave labour. 

One of our main causes at Tearfund is addressing and preventing Modern Slavery. We do this through our programmatic work in Asia-Pacific, lobbying the New Zealand government for legislation change, the most recent being for a New Zealand Modern Slavery Act, and through this research, where we work with companies to reduce the risk of worker exploitation and environmental damage in their supply chains. We believe every human has inherent dignity and should be treated as such. Through our Advocacy, we work to hold people in power accountable and create systems level change in order to see this vision become a reality. We believe that together we can create a fashion industry that empowers and doesn't exploit; that preserves and doesn't destroy.    

We've been assessing the fashion industry for years and have seen positive change, but we think that footwear companies have slipped under the radar. It was time for us to start assessing shoe companies and we believe this was the most interesting and insightful story to tell this year.  

Exploitation in the fashion and footwear industries is so prolific that, in our experience, there are only a select few, small, niche brands, who have built their business model on ethical sourcing from the start, that could potentially guarantee they’re not supporting exploitative practices. The scores in our article are objective research results from our comprehensive survey given to footwear companies, but they’re not a measure of whether or not brands are connected to exploitative practices.  Our results are one view of a company and we hope that the scores are insightful, but remember the most ethical and sustainable wardrobe is the one you already own.  The best thing you can do for people and the planet is to stop the demand for overproduction by buying less.   

Good spotting – we didn't release a Guide that contains the scores of all the brands this year!    We made a Guide for years because we knew that most people won't read our 50+ page full Report and we wanted the results of our research to reach as many people as possible.  However, the more we do this work, the more we understand the complexity of the challenges facing the fashion industry.  In short, there is no easy fix.  There is no silver bullet to guilt-free shopping.   

We always hoped the Guide would help people to make better purchasing decisions but we recognize that it has also been used as permission to continue in consumption habits that are inherently harmful.  We’ve decided to not create a Guide this year because we strongly feel that consumer behaviour needs to change.  Instead of using a Guide to alleviate any guilt associated with overconsuming, we want to challenge our harmful consumption habits.   

So, read our article! We promise you'll love it and find it easy to read. 

Every company is assessed on five sections in the Survey, including: Policies and Governance, Tracing and Transparency, Supplier Relationships and Human Rights Monitoring, Worker Empowerment, and Environmental Sustainability. For a full list of the 46 questions assessed with their evidentiary requirements, please download the Appendix to the Ethical Fashion Report, available here.  

We've taken the new research we've done this year into the footwear industry and created an in-depth, easy-to-read exposé on the issues in the footwear industry.  You'll also find stories from workers we recently interviewed in Bangladesh and tips for how to tread lighter for people and the planet! 

The full 2022 Ethical Fashion Report is linked in our article and contains the results from the full data set of apparel and footwear companies.  It continues to be a powerful tool to provide insight into the wider fashion industry and hold companies accountable for transparency around their social and environmental practices.  

The Ethical Fashion Project’s ultimate aim is to improve the lived experiences of workers in fashion supply chains and promote environmental sustainability. The project seeks to achieve these aims through multiple means. We believe our biggest lever for driving change is through our ability to build relationships with fashion companies and influence action from the inside out. Alongside our annual survey process, we provide fashion companies with a range of resources and advice to build their ethical sourcing capacity and improve their business practices, such as one-on-one consultations, webinars on key topics, assistance documents, and open-ended email and phone contact. But a primary reason companies are willing to engage with us is because people let them know these issues are important to them! When passionate supporters reach out to brands or share a post on their social media, this contributes to a social movement that values the way brands treat their workers and the environment. Through this combined approach, we aim to see year on year improvement in industry performance and key research outcomes.   

Research Process & Methodology

Companies are assessed on 46 questions covering 18 indicators of supply chain practice. All companies included in the research have been assessed on information published on company or brand websites, company reports (e.g., Annual Reports, Corporate Social Responsibility Reports), and any relevant statutory statements (e.g., Modern Slavery Statements) that directly cover the research period. All companies were also given the opportunity to provide evidence directly to the research team.  Where companies have been assessed on public information only, this is identified in the Report and Brand Finder with an asterisk  (*) next to their score.    

The research team do not conduct site inspections of factories as part of their scoring, but we do outline detailed and specific evidence requirements that companies need to meet in order to receive credit for each area of the survey. Therefore, company grades are an analysis of the strength of a company’s labour rights and environmental management systems based on the evidence they provide publicly or directly to the research team. For more information on our evidence requirements, please see ‘How can you guarantee the honesty and accuracy of evidence and information provided by companies?’ below.   

We recognise that some companies may have undertaken positive actions that are not reflected in our assessment, as these were not evidenced.  While any positive actions that contribute to the economic dignity and wellbeing of workers are to be celebrated; transparency and visibility of these actions is critical as they are the only way to ensure accountability for delivery.    

In 2022, our research team assessed 105 data points per company, which equates to 12,600 data points assessed for the full report.  

You can find more information on the research methodology in the Ethical Fashion Report appendix.   

In New Zealand, all companies estimated to have an annual revenue in excess of NZ$30 million have been automatically included in the 2022 Report, as were Australian and global companies estimated to have an annual revenue in excess of AUD$50 million. This selection process ensures the largest companies with the greatest consumer reach and market share, and subsequent impact on workers, are included. 25 footwear companies covering more than 90 brands were included within the scope of the research that is incorporated into this article.   

We’ve chosen to have a NZ$30 million threshold and most Kiwi companies are SMEs that fall below that.   

We gave fashion companies from the 2021 Ethical Fashion Report the ability to carry over their score from last year, or give us new information to increase their score.  Then we included the new selection of footwear companies.  Tearfund has chosen to focus solely on footwear this year and has therefore extracted the results of the 25 footwear companies for inclusion in our article. Some of these companies are newly researched this year, and some have been included in our research for years due to their apparel lines. In total, 120 companies covering 609 brands are included in the 2022 Ethical Fashion Report. 

Transparency has to be the standard in the fashion industry and there are many brands that are transparent around their supply chain practices. We believe a brand should have enough information on their website to get a good score without participating, and that’s why we still assess brands that choose not to participate.  

We recognise that some companies may have undertaken positive actions that are not reflected in our assessment, as these were not evidenced.  While any positive actions that contribute to the economic dignity and wellbeing of workers are to be celebrated; transparency and visibility of these actions is critical as they are the only way to ensure accountability for delivery.   We do clearly mark these brands with an asterisk and indicate that these companies are assessed on public information only and may be doing more than their score reflects.   

Each survey question has a set of stringent validation criteria which must be met to obtain credit. Whilst these evidentiary requirements vary from question to question, wherever possible we request third party documentary evidence, such as audits. Since our research team assesses 120 companies throughout the survey process, they are able to clearly identify areas of weakness in evidence documents provided and request further validation to meet requirements. For companies whose surveys have been completed using ‘Public Information Only’, the same evidence requirements and substance assessments apply.  

It is important to note that the research team do not conduct site inspections of factories as part of their grading. Therefore, company grades are not an assessment of actual conditions in factories and farms, but rather an analysis of the strength of a company’s labour rights and environmental management systems. This research relies on data that is publicly available, alongside evidence of systems and practices provided by companies themselves. Wherever possible, The research team and company representatives work through the survey questions, allowing both parties to be satisfied that the data presented is an accurate representation of the company’s policies and processes. 

The survey assesses 46 individual questions across 5 different sections. Each of these questions are important in their own way in preventing worker exploitation and environmental degradation. However, the fact remains that companies have higher leverage for driving change in some areas of their supply chain, and some actions lead to stronger outcomes for workers and the environment. Section weightings are assigned to help drive change where needed most. They also take into account question volumes (some sections have significantly more questions than others), and industry average performance (sections with higher averages may be weighted lower). Weightings are reviewed regularly to ensure the research continues to push the industry in the right direction. Ultimately, the complexity and volume of research that goes into each company’s score (105 data points assessed per company!), means that a low score on a single question or indicator is not going to lead to a poor overall score on its own.  

Weightings are as follows: 














Wherever relevant, the weightings for sections were further disaggregated to reflect measures taken at each supply chain stage. 

Final stage production 45% 

Input production 35% 

Raw materials 20% 


The higher weighting given to final stage production reflects that this is the stage where most fashion brands have direct supplier relationships and the greatest leverage for change. However, given the increasing concentration of risk—both to human/labour rights and to environmental sustainability—at the early stages of the supply chain, a significant weighting is still given to these stages. 

Our research methodology requires specific documentary evidence and validation for each question assessed in the Survey. This means we don’t take vague statements at face value, but rather, dig deeper and work with companies wherever possible to ensure they’re practicing what they preach in their supply chains. Where possible, we request third party verification documents such as audits and certificates. For companies assessed on public information, the same level of evidence and validation applies. Further to this, our research team are assessing company statements, webpages, and documents on a daily basis for several months each year, which means they have developed expertise in identifying greenwashing red flags! You can view the full criteria we assess by downloading a copy of the Ethical Fashion Appendix, and reviewing the ‘Survey Support Document’ section which shows every question asked and the evidence requirements for credit.    

The Ethical Fashion Survey uses Textile Exchange’s preferred fibres guide to define sustainable fibres as those which result in improved environmental and/or social outcomes compared to conventional production. This includes natural plant-based and animal fibres and manufactured cellulosic and synthetic fibres — which all come with a variety of sustainability credentials such as ‘organically grown’, ‘recycled’ and ‘responsibly sourced’. 

Public-facing Scoring System 

We know people have come a long way in understanding the complexity of ethical fashion issues since our first Ethical Fashion Report was released. For many years, we applied a bell curve, a standard practice grading tool, to the raw scores of companies in order to show how companies were performing in relation to each other, as opposed to the standard our survey set. Our A-F grades have played a role in shifting the fashion industry forwards, and helping educate people on the performance of the most common brands. But we believe it’s time to take that education to a new level. That’s why we’ve shifted to a score out of 100.   

This new way of scoring companies does not change our underlying research – companies are still assessed on the same 46 questions using the same research methodology.   

By publishing the actual score that each company receives in the survey, companies and individuals get a clearer picture of how they are performing against the standard of the survey. It also means it is easier to track improvements, as incremental positive changes that a company makes will be directly reflected in their score rather than only seeing change when the improvements are significant enough to jump a whole grade level, as was previously the case.  

Importantly, this change is also about ensuring a clear message for individuals that is less susceptible to being misinterpreted. In the past we've applied a bell curve to the scores, a standard grading practice, but we understand this can mean that a company with a ‘good grade’ might be perceived to have already arrived at a place of great ethical practice.  

Through providing this greater level of transparency and showing performance against a standard, the research results provide both information as well as provocation to consider what needs to change to make the fashion industry work for its workers and the planet.    

Unfortunately, the scores across the industry have always been low. The old letter-based grades showed how companies compared to each other so the best performing companies when compared to the rest of the industry were the ones that received the highest grades. By publishing the scores we are now increasing the transparency about how these companies fare when assessed against the standard of the Ethical Fashion Report survey.   

It is important to note that while the broadly low scores across the industry highlight the need for significant improvement, most companies are making some progress. Companies have always received their raw scores and this year, many companies increased in percentage points. 

Our survey is designed to answer a very specific question: ‘How strong are the systems and processes companies have in place to mitigate risks of worker exploitation and environmental degradation?’ Fast-fashion brands have a lot of resources, which means that many of them have proactively taken many of the first steps towards protecting workers and addressing environmental impact, such as tracing their supply chains, publishing their factory lists, conducting risk assessments, and auditing their factories.  

However, there is no doubt that the system that fast-fashion companies have created drives over-production and consumption and small tweaks to the system are not enough to make the difference needed.  In recent years, we have modified our survey to include questions that start to target fashion fashion.  But, unfortunately, measuring the impact of fast-fashion in a few specific and measurable questions is trickier than it may seem but we’re always thinking of ways we can do this better. We’ve talked to small businesses, academics, supporters, and people in the ethical fashion space, and everyone agrees that it's very hard to craft questions that get to the heart of the problem of fast fashion.   

We do know that fast fashion isn't doing our world much good.  So, while we continue to work to ensure that our survey tool assesses its impact in the best way possible, we're making sure that the way that we present our research findings doesn't unintentionally imply that people can continue to shop at fast-fashion brands guilt-free.  You can expect to see us continue to turn the heat up on fast-fashion as we move forward. 

Many companies have a wide array of brands or, in some cases, separate corporate entities that are held by their company structure. Some companies (like the major department stores) will have a variety of arrangements with the brands stocked by their stores – including private label, exclusive brands, and non-exclusive brands. In such circumstances, our grading process only considers those brands that are owned or exclusively distributed by these department stores. This can mean that, in the case of some department stores, our grading will only apply to a small portion of what they retail.   

Where companies have separate corporate entities or brands that use differing labour rights systems, then we grade them separately (wherever this has been indicated to us). If you are searching for a specific brand sold by a department store, please search by the brand on the clothing label rather than by the store in which you purchased it.   

Companies with an asterisk (*) beside their score have been assessed on ‘Public Information Only’, including company webpages, annual/sustainability reports, and modern slavery statements. This may be because they have chosen to only provide evidence through their public transparency initiatives or because they have opted not to engage. All evidence is assessed using the same validation criteria.    


How can I take action?

While primary responsibility for ethical production sits with companies, people can play a role in helping shift industry practice—and broader systems impacting workers and the environment—by engaging in the ethical fashion movement. To catalyse this shift, people must let companies and governments know we value the way workers and the environment are treated. You can partake in this movement in a variety of ways, and beyond this, assess your own consumption habits to reduce your impact.  

A few actions you can take right now is by committing to living by the 5 Rs: Reduce, Re-Wear, Repair, Re-Home, and Raise Your Voice! Read the end of the article for more detail on each of these.  

Advocating for fashion industry workers through raising your voice is more important than ever. Email, comment and tag the change you want to see. Put constructive pressure on companies to better protect workers and the environment using our email and dm templates or comment on your favourite shoe brands social channels.  Have conversations with your family and friends about why ethical fashion is important and speak out to government through supporting laws that mandate change for workers and the environment, such as the New Zealand Modern Slavery Act

Can someone from Tearfund come and talk to my class/church/business? 

Yes, absolutely!  Get in touch with us here and we’d love to organise a speaker to come to your group or event. 


Still have questions? Contact us at  to talk to someone directly.