If you've ever wondered what makes one brand an A+ and another an F, then this is a must-read!   

Assessing 98 companies representing 420 brands on their efforts to reduce exploitation of people and the planet is no small task. We spend months diving into brand websites and working with companies on our Ethical Fashion Survey before grading them from A+ to F.


How do we choose which companies to survey?

The goal of this project is to hold large companies accountable for their supply chains, so we automatically assess companies that profit over $30 million a year. However, many smaller companies either want to be assessed because they are doing great work or want to participate as a learning opportunity to improve their supply chain practices. We give all of these companies the option to be included.


The survey

Our survey has five sections covering 18 areas of supply chain practice. Many of the questions are answered for all stages of the supply chain:

Tier 1: Final stage production (Factories that sew clothes together).
Tier 2: Inputs production (The production of fabric, leather and other products).
Tier 3: Raw materials (such as cotton farms). Companies have the least visibility over this level.

The five sections are: Policies and Governance (6% of grade)
We check if a company has a code of conduct for suppliers, how much of the supply chain it covers, and if they have high-level accountability for labour rights and sustainability.

Tracing and Risk (15% of grade)
We look at how much of the supply chain a company has traced, how transparent they are with supplier information, and whether they’re taking action to reduce labour rights and environmental risks.

Supplier Relationships and Human Rights Monitoring (34% of grade)
We assess a company’s supply chain auditing, if they use responsible purchasing practices when placing orders, and whether a company addresses gender inequality in the supply chain.

Worker Empowerment (25% of grade)
We check if a company is paying a living wage. We also assess what worker protections exist, including a process for voicing unfair treatment, training, and collective bargaining agreements.

Environmental Sustainability (20% of grade)
We assess the systems a company has to improve its environmental management of water, chemicals, and carbon emissions. We also check if a company is using sustainable fibres, whether they provide end-of-life solutions such as takeback programmes, and whether they’re addressing overproduction (i.e., when they order too much and it doesn’t sell).


The grading

After we analyse all of the information and cross-check everything, we calculate the brand scores and apply grades.

In the interest of transparency, for the first time we've decided to make the average score and grading brackets available in the EFG. The final grading brackets below are created to reflect how companies are tracking in all areas in relation to the industry average score:


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At 33.6 out of 100, this average may be startling! We get it. But it is broadly consistent with the trends from recent years and follows the slow but continuous improvement over the past eight years. However, it is a reminder that there is a long way to go.


What do the symbols next to the grades mean?

Companies make different choices about how to engage with our research and fall into three categories:

Participating Companies (76% of companies)
Many of the companies we assess actively participate in our research process. This means we assess the information they have publicly available, as well as additional responses and evidence they share with us directly.  

Public Information Only (*) (24% of companies)
Some companies choose not to participate. In these cases, we work to provide a fair assessment of the company’s supply chain practices based on publicly available information only. To maintain transparency, we have clearly labelled these companies with an (*). We acknowledge that many of these companies may be doing more to improve their ethical sourcing than we have been able to assess.  

Insufficient information (i)  (14% of companies)
A small number of companies are unresponsive, or choose not to participate, and have very little information available publicly. In these cases, we were unable to assess the company on more than 20% of the survey questions. These companies are clearly labelled with an (i). Some of these companies may have additional measures in place within their supply chain, but the grade remains an accurate reflection of their transparency.  

Why do we still assess companies who choose not to engage or don’t want to be included?

Transparency.


We still choose to include these companies because the lack of transparency within fashion supply chains is what allows labour rights and environmental abuses to take place. If companies do not publicly disclose what they are doing to ensure that people or the planet are not exploited in their supply chains, it is almost impossible for us to know if they are investing sufficiently to mitigate these risks.

The fashion industry as a whole has made leaps towards greater transparency over the past few years. Transparency is the new standard. We understand that transparency is a process which is why we invite companies to confidentially share information with us that they may not yet be comfortable sharing with the public.

Want to know more about our methodology? Check out pages 26-29 in the Ethical Fashion Report!

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