Tearfund's Covid Fashion Guide

The Ethical Fashion Guide looks different this year. So different that we can’t even call it The Ethical Fashion Guide. This year, we’re so excited to be bringing you the Covid Fashion Guide.

Why has it changed? Because the world has changed. Covid-19 has had a massive impact on the fashion industry, disrupting entire supply chains and exposing vulnerable workers to more risk than ever before.

How do we continue to be ethical consumers in this new world?

We know that Kiwis like you care about who makes their clothes and the conditions they work in. And even though our world has changed, our hearts haven’t.

That’s why we’re so committed to sharing how vulnerable workers are doing – because we know it matters to you. Everything you’re about to read has been written so that you’ll make the choice to help change our world with every piece of clothing you buy.

Covid has turned the fashion
industry inside out

In April 2020, one million garment factory workers lost their jobs in Bangladesh alone.  

Garment workers in vulnerable communities are facing challenges that you and I can hardly imagine. Fashion companies are struggling to survive and their supply chains are rapidly changing. The research we usually do for the annual Ethical Fashion Report was impossible to do in the world we’ve come to know because of Covid-19. 

We’ve taken what we usually research and asked ourselves how we can best translate it into the challenging times we live in. This year, we’ve laid out six key commitments that will change the lives of workers. You can find out which brands supported these commitments in the Covid Fashion Report. 

We want to give you the skills and knowledge to be an ethical consumer in this challenging Covid-19 context. So, we’ve created the Covid Fashion Guide especially for you. We imagine that this guide will be your shopping companion when you’re online or out and about to ground your decision making in good ethical practices. This is the tool you need to follow the thread and continue your ethical fashion journey. 

  • Production Slashed

    Factories have slashed production by up to 85%

  • Wage loss

    Worker salaries have decreased by 40%

  • Trapped in lockdown

    100 million migrant workers are trapped by lockdowns in India alone.


Ethical Fashion 2020 Report

Download the Ethical Fashion 2020 Report

An industry in crisis

2020 has been a year like no other. The Covid-19 pandemic has swept across the globe sparking health, economic and humanitarian crises. No country has been left untouched. No sector has been safe from its impact. But some have been hit harder than others, and the fashion industry employs millions of the most vulnerable workers in our world.

With its complex global supply chains and large numbers of workers in vulnerable contexts, the fashion industry wasn’t made to take the turmoil that has come with Covid-19. An industry that relies on people buying what they want when they want it, the fashion industry has felt the impact of people tightening their purse strings in the wake of what has been predicted to be the worst economic crisis in our lifetime.

We’ve seen disruption take place at both ends of the fashion industry supply chains. Both producing and consuming countries have experienced lockdowns. This has meant that clothing hasn’t been able to be produced, sold or purchased in the way that it has been in the past.

Shathi's Story

A garment worker

Industry Context

An overlocking machine

The Commitments

For the 2020 Covid Fashion Report, we asked clothing companies to make six commitments, the Covid Fashion Commitments, to stand together with workers in their global supply chains, and mitigate the risks to workers.

These Commitments represent the key actions that companies can take in the context of COVID, and those which will make the greatest difference for workers. They are aligned with other global initiatives including the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Call to Action.

1. Support workers wages by honouring supplier commitments

1. Support workers wages by honouring supplier commitments

Tuesday, 20 October 2020 — Alex Carter

 

Read more

2. Identify and support the workers who are at greatest risk

2. Identify and support the workers who are at greatest risk

Sunday, 18 October 2020 — Alex Carter

       

Read more

3. Listen to the voices and experience of workers

3. Listen to the voices and experience of workers

Saturday, 17 October 2020 — Alex Carter

     

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4. Ensure workers’ rights and safety are respected

4. Ensure workers’ rights and safety are respected

Saturday, 17 October 2020 — Alex Carter

      

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5. Collaborate with others to protect vulnerable workers

5. Collaborate with others to protect vulnerable workers

Friday, 16 October 2020 — Alex Carter

               

Read more

6. Build back better for workers and the world

6. Build back better for workers and the world

Thursday, 15 October 2020 — Alex Carter

           

Read more

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  • 7x more likely

    Companies with strong ethical practices coming into the pandemic were nearly 7 times more likely to provide evidence of all commitments.

  • B+ or higher

    75% of companies that received a B+ or higher in 2019 provided evidence against all commitments.

  • NZ companies doing well

    80% of NZ companies assessed could provide some evidence of upholding the Covid Fashion Commitments.

  • 60% in top rank

    Over 60% of NZ companies assessed landed in the top ranked tier.

  • 72% order commitment

    72% of all companies assessed provided some sort of proof that they continued to pay for orders already in production, instead of cancelling these.

  • Room for improvement

    11% of companies of companies that received a C– or lower in 2019 provided evidence against all commitments.

How we researched brands this year

The regular Ethical Fashion Report research process is about assessing the systems in place across the entire supply chain of a fashion company. It assumes business as usual – that things are stable in the supply chain, and that companies are able to engage deeply with their ethical practice. This year, it just hasn’t been the case. Supply chains haven’t been stable. Some companies haven’t had the capacity to have the same meaningful conversations about their workers. And while many of them are absolutely committed to caring for the most vulnerable people in the industry, the space and time required to really work with us on our usual research just hasn’t existed in their lives. This is why we had to come up with something new.

Because of these challenges, this year’s Covid Fashion Report is focused on identifying and recognising the immediate actions and initiatives that have been set up by companies in response to the pandemic. It also looks at how Covid-19 has impacted their garment workers. The report contains an in-depth analysis of each Commitment, outlining the challenges our research uncovered. We also pull out some case studies from our research to highlight some pretty amazing things companies and organisations have been doing to support the workers in their supply chain.

We’ve intentionally graded the Covid Fashion Report differently from the regular (A-F) grading approach. The report identifies the companies that have made credible commitments to their workers – and those that haven’t. It provides a simplified grading based on how they’ve met those Commitments. We want to encourage collaboration, innovation and effort as companies respond in the interests of their workers, recognising all meaningful efforts made.

Our grading categories are as follows:

  • Evidence of actions that cover ALL areas of the Covid Fashion Commitments
  • Evidence of actions that cover SOME areas of the Covid Fashion Commitments
  • NO evidence provided/identified covering COVID-specific actions

Download the Covid Fashion Field Guide and spread the word! The more people shopping smart the better.