Wondering why you haven’t seen the Ethical Fashion Guide for 2020?

The global spread of the Covid-19 is unlike anything we have ever experienced before and the true scale of its devastation remains to be seen. Here in New Zealand, it may be the first time we have collectively feared for our wellbeing and that of our loved ones. However, for people who are already poor and marginalised, this crisis will only exacerbate vulnerabilities which existed well before any of us had ever heard of ‘coronavirus’. Here at Tearfund, along with Baptist World Aid, we’ve been working hard to figure out the best way for us to respond to the COVID crisis, in relation to the 2020 Ethical Fashion Report.

We’ve decided to do things a little differently this year. In the coming weeks, we’re launching a new campaign centred on key commitments that we’re going to ask brands to make to protect workers in their supply chains in this current season and beyond.

As the crisis unfolds in garment-producing countries, we hope to amplify the voices of workers and work with brands to ensure that their workers' rights are protected.

We will also provide ways for you to stand with us in this important work too. Make sure you’re following us on social media to stay in the loop!

We hope you’ll join us!

Our planet and millions of people are exploited to give us the clothes we buy. It doesn’t have to be this way.

When you buy from brands with good grades, you’re supporting fair working conditions and care for the planet.

The Ethical Fashion Guide is a practical tool you can use to reduce worker exploitation and alleviate poverty in developing countries where clothes are manufactured.

It grades fashion companies on ethical practices in their supply chains, giving you the power to shop ethically and connect with the people who make your clothes.

Get the Ethical Fashion Guide today and connect to create change.

  • 43 million

    Workers in the garment industry

  • 5 NZ fashion companies

    Paying some workers in their supply chain a living wage

  • Six years

    Since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory, which killed 1,134 people

Ethical Fashion 2019 Report

Download the Ethical Fashion 2019 Report

Why Ethical Fashion?

The fashion industry can be a force for good. In the last 20 years, our consumption of clothing has increased dramatically.

It’s easy to walk into a shop and buy clothes, right? But we’re pretty disconnected from the actual process of making clothes and the people that have made them. Often, the brands that sell the clothes are no different to us – they know very little about what’s gone into making their products. The result of this disconnected system is that people and the planet are exploited in the process of making our clothes.

Disconnection like this sits at the heart of poverty. When people are disconnected from power, resource and opportunity, this leads to poverty and exploitation. The fashion industry has made millions of dollars profit from the exploitation of workers while failing to pay the price of its environmental impact. In our work of seeking justice and an end to poverty and exploitation Tearfund wants to encourage companies and consumers to connect with the people who make their clothes.

The Ethical Fashion Guide connects. It connects you with brands that care about workers in their supply chains. When you buy from brands with good grades, you’re supporting fair working conditions and care for the planet.

Together, we can change a system of exploitation to one of fairness and sustainability.

Get the Ethical Fashion Guide today and connect to create change.
To learn more about Tearfund’s work, click here.


Ethical Fashion Guide 2019 Report Cards

Ethical Fashion 2019 Report Cards

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Note: If funds raised exceed Tearfund’s requirements for funding the Ethical Fashion Guide, your gift will go to our work combatting modern slavery.

How are the brands graded?

For this research, 130 companies representing 480 brands have been assessed on five areas:

These areas are assessed across three stages of the supply chain: raw materials (for example, cotton farms), inputs production (production of fabrics) and final stage production (suppliers who put the clothes together). Companies are given an overall grade from A+ to F based on the assessment of the five areas.

Photo credit: Reemi

Unpacking the ethics of ‘made in New Zealand’.

We all know that when garment manufacturing happens overseas, the conditions are often unsafe and the pay low. But what about when clothes are manufactured in New Zealand? Surely that’s risk-free because we have strong employment and health and safety legislation, right? Tearfund’s Education & Advocacy Manager, Claire Hart, debunks some of the myths around ‘made in NZ’ being ethical.

New Zealand has a small fashion industry dominated by many small brands rather than big industry players. The majority of NZ brands have moved manufacturing offshore to China or South East Asia following the global trend towards cheaper production.

Only a handful of brands, mostly niche ethical or high-end designer brands, still manufacture in NZ. Being ‘made in NZ’ has a good reputation but is it an ethical choice?

First up, we should point out that there are a number of small, niche ethical fashion companies that manufacture in NZ. These companies have built their businesses around sustainable and ethical values. Although Tearfund doesn’t assess this type of company in The Ethical Fashion Report, a small amount of research into these companies suggests that they’re on the right track and deserve our support.

However, there are a number of other, larger, mostly high-end designer brands that also manufacture in NZ and it’s these companies that we’re talking about here.

It’s easy to assume that if manufacturing takes place in New Zealand then workers won’t be exploited; however, we know this is not always the case. Whilst NZ has strong Health & Safety and Employment legislation, it is not always upheld.

The same workers who are most at risk in offshore production (younger people and migrant workers) are also at risk here in NZ. It only takes a quick Google search to bring up examples of migrant workers being exploited by actions such as having identity documents withheld, or other violations of employee rights such as wages below minimum wage or wage theft.

Even though risks might be lower when a company manufactures in NZ, there are still risks; therefore, we believe it is important to require companies which manufacture in NZ to disclose what measures they are taking to ensure no exploitation is taking place.

On a different note, and applicable to both small niche ethical companies and high-end designer brands, even if final stage manufacturing takes place in New Zealand, a company will still have a large portion of its supply chain offshore. Most companies that manufacture here will be importing fabric, and a small minority will import raw materials to produce fabric. Unless a company has robust accreditation or certification in this space (such as Fairtrade or Organic certification) it’s very hard to know for sure that fabric, trims and accessories are being sourced ethically. Without such certifications, the sourcing model that is built around this heavily relies on third parties (either agents or fabric importing businesses) and it is very hard for brands to get information about where the fabric is sourced from.