Remake is a 501(c)3 organization that empowers citizens to advocate for fair wages and eliminate environmental injustice in the fashion industry. As a non-profit and independent third party, we take no money from brands and charge no auditing fees.
List of brands:
Our second annual industry report, based on consultations with 14 experts, scores 60 fashion companies across 6 key areas:
The climate crisis is here. The pandemic’s ravaging impact on fashion workers is pulling back the veil on inequalities at the heart of fashion. The industry’s systemic racism is coming more sharply into focus. Moreover, our understanding of sustainability, planetary limits and intersectional approaches to social change is reaching new heights.
For these reasons and more, it’s time to raise the bar on fashion. It’s clear that fashion needs radically different business models and new modes of thinking. As a non-profit that takes no money from brands, we believe the kind of third-party accountability represented in this report is absolutely critical to changing the conversation and pushing the industry into new and transformative territory.
This year, Remake has updated its approach to holding the industry to account. In writing this report, we relied on the expertise of labor rights organizations; professors of human rights, employment, fashion and law; and experts in the fields of sustainability, environmental justice and circular economy. We heard time and again from environmental experts about the need to radically shift business models away from linear growth as the best path forward in addressing fashion’s overproduction and climate impacts. We listened deeply to human rights and diversity and inclusion experts on the need to center living wages and upward mobility for BIPOC communities upon whose backs this $2.5 trillion industry is built.
We also added many new metrics, from measuring the transparency and accountability of clothing take-back schemes and evidence of intersectional environmentalism to asking companies to raise prices paid to factories so they can decarbonize and meet living wages. For the first time, we scored companies on product output and total environmental impact, and in a way that values resilient and regenerative business models that aren’t built around endless growth and disposable consumption.
For our 2021 report, we have raised the stakes and companies are able to score up to 150 points, with the average company scoring 17 points, the lowest-scoring companies scoring a -13 and the highest score being 83 points. Overall big brands and retailers — whether luxury, high street or fast fashion — are not taking on the systemic reform needed to counter fashion’s negative impacts on people and the planet. We scored 16 small and medium-sized brands as well, and it was here that we found more forward-thinking approaches that provide a glimpse into a reimagined fashion future. SMEs scored four times higher (37 on average) than big companies, which scored a 9 on average.
We hope Remake’s Accountability Report serves as a wake-up call and a roadmap for systemic change in fashion. We do not see this report as a ranking of brands that have “passed” or “failed,” but as a measure of which companies are accepting and addressing their impact on the planet and people. As the low aggregate scores illustrate, the fashion industry on the whole is protecting the status quo — but some brands did substantially better than others, which we also want to recognize. We see glimmers of change, and the potential for a real shift in the coming years should brands choose to step up and address these takeaway issues head on, as some of these companies are already beginning to do.
We were heartened to see an increase in companies sharing Tier 1, and to a lesser extent, Tier 2 and raw material suppliers. However, beyond location data there is a lack of information on wages, incidents of gender-based violence and other violations in apparel factories. We see an urgent need for transparency on commercial practices, as they are the root cause of many of fashion’s impacts.
36 companies (60% of total) publish a Tier 1 supplier list.
5 companies (8%) can demonstrate that at least some of their garment makers earned a living wage.
Cancelled contracts, steep discounts and payment delays during the pandemic have sharpened the need to address the asymmetry of power in the fashion supply chain. To date, most companies have a supplier code of conduct but not a Buyer Code of Conduct, which would require brands to uphold fairer pay and contract terms.
14 of the companies we scored (23%) never agreed to #PayUp for orders during the pandemic.
Given fashion’s complicity in the Uyghur genocide, we asked companies to have better oversight of their raw material supply as opposed to a reliance on certifications. While heartening to see a smattering of companies investing in regenerative agriculture, overall we saw a lack of urgency in divesting from virgin polyester, which is sourced from fossil fuels.
14 companies (23%) have set a time-bound target to reduce all virgin polyester and other oil-derived synthetic materials.
We applaud the uptake of science-based targets by a majority of companies but saw few companies address climate’s impacts with an intersectional lens. Additionally, there was little to no data showing progress on Scope 3 emissions, which is where the bulk of the industry’s impact lies. Moreover, there was a dearth of incentives baked in for suppliers to decarbonize and support companies’ climate goals.
33 (55%) companies reported annual carbon emissions, including Scope 3 factory emissions.
Governance, Diversity and Inclusion
Across the board there were limited incentives for executives to follow-up on their sustainability commitments. For example, tying sustainability goals to executive compensation. While some companies made moves to diversify their teams and invest in career pipeline programs with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the longevity and efficacy of these initiatives remains to be seen. Some larger companies are woke-washing to sell more products to Black and brown communities without an active plan to recruit, retain and fairly compensate people of color in their headquarters and supply chain.
11 companies (18%) invested in the communities where they operate, taking race, class and gender into consideration.
This year, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, the stakes were high to protect garment makers. This is why we deducted points from companies that failed to commit to worker-championed efforts for systemic reforms in fashion. Specifically, when relevant, companies lost points for refusing to commit to the International Accord, for never agreeing to #PayUp and for failure to endorse the Garment Worker Protection Act.
22 companies (37%) either allowed trade associations to lobby on their behalf against the Garment Worker Protection Act or they produced apparel in California and never endorsed the bill.
21 companies (35%) of the companies we scored that produce in Bangladesh have yet to sign onto the International Accord on Fire and Building Safety.
Most of the 60 fashion companies we evaluated have now set science-based targets, which we applaud — but, they are dangerously behind in meeting them. Only 33 (55%) of the 60 companies we evaluated publish their full Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. Fashion must quickly account for its Scope 3 (upstream and downstream value chain) emissions, as that is where more than 70% of the industry’s CO2 emissions take place, on average. Only 1 brand in our rankings (Levi’s) was able to demonstrate emission reductions at a pace quick enough to reach 45% reduction by 2030 in line with the IPCC’s 1.5 degree pathway, and even then, Levi’s warned that the progress it made in 2020 is likely only due to the pandemic. Finally, there is a lack of reported financial incentives provided by fashion companies to their suppliers to invest in carbon efficient technologies.
Companies were strongest in factory disclosure, with 36 companies (60% of total) publishing a Tier 1 supplier list. 8 companies (13%) published beyond Tier 1 of their supply chain, such as textile mills. 3 (5%) published their entire supply chain, down to the raw material level. This is progress. However, it is alarming that major companies like Inditex (Zara, Bershka, Massimo Dutti), American Eagle Outfitters, Abercrombie & Fitch and FashionNova still do not offer even a most basic glimpse into their supply chains. Furthermore, there continues to be a need for publicly available data on incidents and progress toward living wages, working conditions, gender-based violence and other labor violations.
Many companies have now incorporated a resale program and some have expanded rental for fast-moving goods at a variety of company sizes, from Mara Hoffman’s Full Circle Marketplace and Levi’s SecondHand to Lululemon’s Like New and H&M subsidiary ARKET’s launching of rental for kid’s clothes. However, companies cannot demonstrate that these circular efforts are displacing their core business of selling new products made from virgin resources. For the circular economy to have environmental benefits, it must displace virgin production of new clothes or decrease net consumption of raw materials and resources. Currently, secondhand and rental are operating parallel to traditional linear business models to provide an additional revenue stream for brands and retailers rather than replacing the linear model.
Companies are making too much clothing and they are doing so on the backs of millions of workers all along the fashion supply chain who earn poverty pay. With some apparel retail workers getting a pay bump, we have started to measure progress on living wages at different levels. Five brands out of the 60 (8%) could demonstrate a living wage to some garment workers (Christy Dawn, Nisolo, Burberry, Patagonia, and Reformation). Five companies declare information showing they are striving to pay living wages to their own direct employees, including retail workers. And one company (Nisolo) can demonstrate that it is paying living wages to other indirect employees, like models and logistics workers.
Small and medium-sized brands scored 37 points on average, while the average for large companies was 9 points. SMEs (defined as companies with $250 million or less in net revenue annually) were more likely to provide detailed information on their sustainability efforts, to have resilient business models focused on durable products, to be working to phase out virgin fossil fuel fabrics and to be transparent about their supply chain. It was also SMEs that were vocal supporters of California’s transformative Garment Worker Protection Act, including Boyish Jeans, Nisolo, Christy Dawn, Eileen Fisher, Mara Hoffman and Reformation.
When it comes to human and labor rights commitments, big European companies are pulling ahead of their American counterparts. A number of large American brands lost significant points because they are not, to date, signatories of the life-saving International Accord on Fire and Building Safety, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Under Armour, Levi’s, Patagonia and VF Corp. (Timberland, The North Face). What’s more, many big U.S. companies hid behind trade group association memberships that heavily lobbied against the Garment Worker Protection Act in California, which aims to hold brands accountable for wage theft. Large European companies, by contrast, were more likely to support supply chain accountability such as mandatory human rights due diligence.
Unethical behavior and unsustainable business models are rampant in the industry and are not just confined to fast fashion brands. Discounters, big box chains, sportswear brands, luxury and even children’s wear companies struggled to report on the most basic commitments to social and environmental justice. We see these issues as “big fashion” problems and not just fast fashion problems.
Despite an explosion of so-called sustainable materials and marketing campaigns painting fashion as more sustainable and circular, big brands could not prove that their absolute (or “net”) environmental impact and resource consumption is going down. Only a handful of companies report on the total amount of products being produced. Fashion’s annual volume growth rate is 2.7%, which means total resource consumption will outstrip most, if not all, industry sustainability efforts. Reducing environmental impact while increasing social benefit is key.
Big brands are co-opting buzzwords such as sustainable fiber, worker empowerment, transparency, circularity and take-back initiatives, covering up limited progress on living wages, social protections, overproduction and fashion’s staggering waste problem. Moreover, the industry’s goals and metrics lack a sense of urgency and specificity, with limited comparable data available in the public domain.
A disturbing trend following the George Floyd protests in 2020 was an increase in brands sharing black squares or other social media posts about the importance of racial equity — with little follow through in their own business models. A year and a half later, companies should at least have clear roadmaps for the actions they will take to be inclusive of different backgrounds at all levels of their businesses. When brands disclose diversity data, they are likely to share gender breakdowns where women are typically in lower-level positions and disappear moving upwards. This trend was even more apparent when brands disclose race breakdowns. 12 companies (20%) report investing in the communities where they operate, taking race, class and gender into consideration. Companies need to shift to a “top down and bottom up” approach to provide historically marginalized communities with successful career trajectories.
Most brands have a Supplier Code of Conduct that demands that factories meet certain social and environmental standards. However, the pandemic underscored the clear need for brands to adopt a Buyer Code of Conduct that outlines their obligations to suppliers, including higher prices, human rights standards and fair contract terms that support sustainability and worker wellbeing. What’s more, companies must share in the responsibility of investing in sustainable practices and decarbonizing their supply chains by paying prices high enough to support these efforts
“Build back better. Blah, blah, blah. Green economy. Blah blah blah. Net zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah… But they’ve now had 30 years of blah, blah, blah and where has that led us?”
Greta Thunburg, 2021 Youth4Climate Summit
Remake’s assessment criteria was initially created five years ago as a means of providing our growing community with sustainable and ethical shopping alternatives to fast fashion, and the tools to become more conscious consumers. At the time, our ideas and intentions were far-reaching. Since then, the ethical and sustainable fashion movement has become a global phenomenon, and our consciousness of what a responsible fashion industry looks like has evolved in turn.
While many fashion companies, responding to consumer pressure and the ecological crisis, are doing more to lessen their environmental impact, climate change is here, and the IPCC has sounded a “code red” for humanity. Furthermore, the Black Lives Matter movement exposed the persistence of racism at the heart of our society, including in the fashion industry. The #PayUp campaign confirmed that brands are continuing to exploit garment workers as a standard practice.
In updating our assessment criteria, we have raised the bar of accountability for brands. The days of oversold brand commitments set far out into a future that never arrives are over. Fashion companies, especially the corporate giants who control the industry, must make transformative change now. We will no longer reward them for transparency for transparency’s sake. Instead, our updated criteria focuses on action and progress. For example:
It is not enough to share where a company’s supply chain is located; companies need to share how much their garment makers are paid and what their working conditions are like, as well as demonstrate that both are improving year-over-year.
We do not care about slick environmental campaigns, vague sustainability targets and carbon-offsetting programs; we would like to know whether or not companies’ have set, and are on track to meet, 1.5 degree pathway-aligned, science-based emissions reduction targets, both in their own operations and along their upstream and downstream value chains.
We aren’t interested in superficial statements and token hires. Instead, we have looked at what companies are doing to facilitate the hiring, retention and career progressions of a diverse range of employees at every level. Additionally, we are asking what they are doing to invest in supply chain and retail workers, who are mostly women of color.
Our updated criteria seeks to measure brands based on the true complexity and intersectionality of the social, environmental, economic and political issues embedded in fashion supply chains. Our report scores companies based on what they are doing, not what they say they should do, what they’re going to do, or what they did once.
Brands could earn a maximum of 150 possible points across 6 sections: Traceability (8 possible points), Wages and Wellbeing (23 possible points), Commercial Practices (15 possible points), Raw Materials (20 possible points), Environmental Justice (42 total points) and Governance (42 total possible points).
We based our findings on publicly-available disclosures by companies. In a few instances, we drew information from the findings of other trusted NGOs, independent research, and media reports. Each company was sent their score in advance, and many provided supplemental information or made more information public, which influenced their final scores.
In addition to the 150 possible points brands could earn, for each of the three spotlight issues listed below, brands lost five points if the campaign was relevant to them and they did not support it or actively lobbied against it.
The 60 companies evaluated below were chosen for a variety of reasons.
Firstly, we included a majority of the world’s most profitable apparel companies (as just 20 control 97% of industry profits) because of their impact on the fashion industry. Additionally, we included nearly all of the companies currently being tracked by PayUp Fashion, a multi-year campaign that seeks to hold the industry accountable and build a fair future for garment workers. Based on our conscious community’s input, we also included a handful of luxury, small and medium-sized brands that market themselves as sustainable.
Forever 21 tied with Ross Stores as our lowest-scoring company this year. Though it’s no longer the king of fast fashion, Forever 21 is still raking in nearly $3 billion in sales of cheap, disposable clothes annually while shirking social or environmental justice. The brand has earned its notoriety time and again by paying sweatshop wages in Los Angeles, stealing from young designers and communities of color, and refusing to disclose any credible information that would make its supply chain more transparent. The California company also never endorsed the Garment Worker Protection Act. The only area where Forever 21 scored points was in animal welfare, which is a red herring that distracts from the company’s reliance on oil-derived fabrics like polyester. Forever 21 is still all-in on its extractive, fast fashion business model, which is why it ranks so poorly.
This discount chain is one of the most profitable apparel companies in the world, believe it or not, and one of the least socially responsible, as is evident by its score. Some of the merchandise in Ross’s retail outlets are made exclusively for its stores, and those products are made with an appalling track record on human rights. In fact, Ross Dress for Less is one of the top violators of wage theft in California apparel factories, having benefited for years from the state’s sweatshop conditions. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Ross Stores allowed its trade associations to lobby against California’s Garment Worker Protection Act, which holds companies like itself accountable for wage theft. It has also yet to sign onto the International Accord, despite manufacturing some apparel in Bangladesh. What’s more, the company scored 0 points across most of our categories, including basic supply chain transparency.
Global Brands Group (GBG) is among the worst offenders this year, having failed to #PayUp to its garment makers despite its owners sitting on a nearly $4 billion family fortune. It’s also on the Board of Directors of the AAFA, which heavily lobbied against the Garment Worker Protection Act. GBG owns, manages and licenses dozens of name brands, including Sean Jean, Katy Perry, Frye and AllSaints — and yet, despite the involvement and promotion of woke causes by some of these cultural big-hitters (remember Sean Jean’s “Vote or Die” campaign?), this company certainly doesn’t practice the ethos of what its partnering voices preach. Furthermore, GBG reveals little to nothing at the brand level about its commitments to social and environmental sustainability, leaving us to wonder what’s happening to the people and places who make these well-known products. GBG failed to provide information in supply chain traceability, wages and environmental impact categories, ultimately bringing the company’s score down to an appalling -12.
TJX (owner owner of Marshalls and TJMaxx) is one of our lowest-scoring companies because of its scant social and environmental commitment, as well as due to the fact that it cancelled already-completed orders during the pandemic and never agreed to #PayUp, putting its garment makers in peril. Furthermore, the company has not yet signed on to the International Accord and has chosen to manage factory safety through voluntary initiatives that put workers’ lives in danger. Thus far, TJX has also failed to publish its supply chain emissions, much less set a target to reduce them. While TJX is antsy to get good press by giving back to historically marginalized communities through foundation giving, in-store fundraising and associate volunteerism, we aren’t seeing a lot of progress on diversity and inclusion. Contrary to popular belief, TJX sells some merchandise that is made exclusively for its stores.
The British chain (which owns Peacocks and Bonmarché) acted notoriously during the pandemic, imposing steep discounts on its suppliers and refusing to #PayUp to its garment makers. While it claimed financial distress, the company was owned by billionaire Philip Day at the time. Edinburgh Woolen Mill (EWM) also stands out for earning zero points across the six categories in our scoresheet, as it fails to disclose information about its supply chain and set goals or report on progress about its factories, wages, commercial practices, climate action plans, environmental impact or corporate strategy for diversity, equity and inclusion. Needless to say, Edinburgh Woolen Mill is one of the most disappointing players in this report.
As one of the lowest-scoring brands this year, The Children’s Place shows no initiative in taking a sustainable and ethical approach to conducting business. The company has yet to #PayUp to garment workers for already-completed orders cancelled during the pandemic. It also has yet to publish a list of its Tier 1 suppliers. The Children’s Place has made no commitment to the International Accord. If the company can’t step up to perform these basic actions to protect the people sewing its clothes, it should come as no surprise that The Children’s Place doesn’t ensure its garment and retail makers earn a living wage. As for environmental justice, the brand is no better, lacking time-bound targets for even basic sustainability goals, like reducing waste or switching to more sustainable packaging, nor has it committed to reducing emissions in line with a 1.5 degree pathway.
As one of the lowest-scoring companies, it’s ironic that a maternity brand demonstrates absolutely no care or concern for the environment or the humans in its supply chain. Mothercare never agreed to #PayUp, has yet to sign the International Accord and there is not one mention of environmental sustainability or worker well-being on the company’s website. To begin raising its score from an abysmal -9, Mothercare could start disclosing its factory locations and set some environmental goals, including initiatives around climate justice.
JCPenney’s subzero score reflects in part the fact that the company never agreed to #PayUp. The flailing department store took out its financial struggles on the most vulnerable people in its supply chain: garment makers, cancelling at least $23 million worth of orders in Bangladesh alone during the pandemic. What’s more, JCPenney manufactured in the collapsed Rana Plaza factory in 2013, which killed 1,134 makers, and to this day has not committed to the International Accord on building safety nor its predecessor agreements. Despite JCPenney’s continued dominance in the department sector (with over 600 locations in the U.S. alone and over $11 billion in annual sales), it does startlingly little to be socially or environmentally just. The brand states that it “strives to buy [its] merchandise from companies that share [its] values,” and yet it lacks even basic commitments around water stewardship, diversity and inclusion, and climate change.
The failing department store seems content to take down its factories and garment workers along with it. Even though Sears is owned by a billionaire whose wealth increased during the pandemic, the company failed to #PayUp to its suppliers for already manufactured clothing during the pandemic, prompting Bangladeshi factory owners to sue the company for back pay. The company also has yet to sign onto the new International Accord. Unsurprisingly, Sears’ commitments on social and environmental sustainability goals are woefully behind the times, with the company failing to so much as publish a list of its factories.
Kohl’s egregious behavior during the pandemic included cancelling more than a billion dollars worth of merchandise already in production while simultaneously paying its shareholders millions in dividends. Not surprisingly, the retailer has soared back to profits this year off the backs of its garment makers. What’s more, Kohl’s managed to fail all three of our Spotlight Issues, meaning the company has yet to sign the International Accord and allowed its trade group associations to lobby against California’s Garment Worker Protection Act. Kohl’s has made some commitments to increase its racial diversity and to make its hiring practices more inclusive, but we’ll need some proof of progress before awarding any points on that front.
American Eagle Outfitters (AEO), owner of Aerie, earned points for its commitment to the International Accord, but otherwise it lags far behind many of its peers in terms of the most basic supply chain disclosures and social and environmental commitments. Its lackluster emission-reduction targets are just one example. Aside from the mentioning of a few vague projects to use less water and “more sustainable cotton,” there simply is not much to measure the company on. More to the point, AEO was also penalized for imposing steep discounts on its factories during the pandemic and refusing to #PayUp, driving its final score down to a dismal -4.
Riding on the athleisure wear boom, Lululemon has leapt to become one of the world’s most profitable apparel companies. The brand has disclosed some of its raw material suppliers and set some important environmental targets, like goals to phase out virgin oil-based fabrics and decrease CO2 emissions in its supply chain, which is particularly crucial for a brand that depends on synthetics. However, like many other brands, Lululemon has outlined sustainable goals for the future but isn’t disclosing much about where it is now. Also, the company is woefully behind on social commitments to garment makers, having lost points for not signing onto the International Accord or committing to pay living wages.
Abercrombie & Fitch (A&F) remains tight-lipped about even the most basic information we expect from brands, such as apparel factory location disclosure. It also has yet to make serious sustainability commitments, like targets to eliminate oil-derived material, including polyester. Furthermore, the company has not moved away from a linear growth model. Though A&F does report on overall wage levels within its supply chain and has a few one-off worker wellbeing programs, the brand has made no progress towards its living wage goals. It’s also yet to set science-based targets for its emissions, including its supply chain, putting it dangerously behind on climate action. Simply put, the lack of transparency and action at A&F is worrisome.
As a company notorious for paying LA garment workers subminimum wages of $2.77 an hour, it’s little surprise that Fashion Nova managed to earn sub-zero points. Though the company appeared to support an earlier version of the Garment Worker Protection Act in California, it remained silent during its victorious legislative cycle in 2021. The company doesn’t publish a supplier list or even appear to have a Code of Conduct for its factories, and as of recently, it was clear the company wasn’t paying high enough prices to support decent workplace conditions, which is a violation of commercial practices. Known as one of the world’s leading fast fashion brands, Fashion Nova’s speedy turnarounds, cheap prices and thousands of new styles weekly indicate that the brand has no intention of moving towards a more resilient or circular business model. But its lack of social justice commitments are just as harrowing.
This British fast fashion brand has had a tumultuous ascent. It was caught using sweatshops in the UK, and then became the focus of a television docuseries painting the company as empowering to women, raising more than a few eyebrows. Of course, there’s no evidence Missguided empowers its garment makers, pays its retail workers living wages or reinvests in the communities it extracts its wealth from. By introducing thousands of new styles per week, we’re concerned Missguided is triggering an inhumane pace of production that has massive social and environmental impacts. Furthermore, the brand has set alarmingly few social and environmental goals, nor does it reveal much about its supply chain or footprint.
Walmart recently hiked wages for its retail employees after decades of creating some of the most poverty-inducing working conditions of any company (although it’s important to note these wage hikes fall below living wages in many places). The company is also hiring more managers of color, although that doesn’t appear to be the case at the executive level. But when it comes to its supply chain, Walmart is as ruthless as ever, refusing to #PayUp or take responsibility for order cancellations of its George brand label sold through its retail subsidiary, Asda, during the pandemic. It also failed to sign onto the new International Accord, despite the fact that Walmart produced products in the Rana Plaza factory, where 1,134 garment makers lost their lives in 2013. What’s more, Walmart scored zero points when it came to Environmental Justice, failing to set a Scope 3 carbon emissions target or invest in the places it extracts its wealth from. As the world’s largest retailer and the largest clothing retailer in the U.S., Walmart could likely single-handedly finance a low-carbon and regenerative transition in fashion if it wasn’t so busy chasing the lowest prices.
The news that Under Armour raised its retail wages from $10 an hour to $15 an hour to attract employees sounds like a step in the right direction, but also underscores that fashion is subsidized by poverty wages at all levels. Though the sportswear giant has made a commitment to pay living wages to factory workers, it has yet to demonstrate progress towards that goal. Under Armour publishes fewer goals related to sustainability than its competitors, and it’s one of the few large brands that has yet to disclose its GHG emissions. And its emission reduction target of 30% by 2030 is also notably lower than other big companies. Under Armour earned points for supply chain transparency and for committing to honor contracts during the pandemic, but they were lost due to its lack of commitment to the International Accord and for chairing the Board of AAFA, a trade association that heavily lobbied against the Garment Worker Protection Act, which aims to hold brands responsible for the minimum wage to garment workers.
With over 30 private-label apparel brands and clothing sales topping $20 billion annually (around the same as H&M), Target’s eye-popping revenues are made with little commitment to social or environmental justice. Target has yet to support the new International Accord agreement, its climate change commitments aren’t in line with a 1.5 degree pathway, it doesn’t have living wage goals, nor does it invest in communities of color that it extracts wealth from. We also find it troubling that Target is part of the executive committee of a trade association that lobbied against California’s Garment Worker Protection Act, a bill that holds companies accountable for paying garment makers a minimum wage. Target has set mostly lackluster environmental goals, including reducing virgin plastic in its own brand packaging by 20% by 2025 and increasing the use of regenerative and sustainably sourced materials by 2040, nearly two decades away. Because our scoring system is based on action versus goal-setting, Target managed to earn nearly no points.
Amazon flies under the radar as a fashion producer, and yet its private label clothing sales make it one of the biggest fashion companies in the world today. While the behemoth made progress by publishing its supplier list in 2019, it is unclear how many of these factories are manufacturing its clothing, making it difficult to hold the retailer to account. What’s more, Amazon faces serious allegations of monopolizing markets, union busting and committing human rights abuses in its warehouses and supply chain. It has also yet to sign onto the International Accord. Considering the enormous wealth Amazon generates, we expect the company to move immediately to paying living wages, from its warehouses and delivery fleets to its factory floors. Amazon is also massively greenwashing on climate change. While the company has made some progress towards measuring its Scope 3 emissions, it has yet to commit to reduce emissions in line with a 1.5 degree pathway, and it admits that its absolute CO2 emissions climbed dramatically in 2020 because of its unsustainable growth.
URBN (owner of Urban Outfitters, Free People, Anthropologie and Nuuly) ranks abysmally across the board for its lack of transparency in its supply chain and for showing little demonstrable progress towards its sustainability goals. What’s more, Anthropologie was called out last year for racially profiling Black customers and for refusing to #PayUp to its garment makers. Urban Outfitters has a long history of human rights violations in its supply chain, was named one of the top violators of wage theft in California’s garment factories and never endorsed the Garment Worker Protection Act. The company has recently made investments into HBCUs and began recruitment efforts to create a more diverse workplace, but it’s too early to measure the outcome or efficacy of these programs. We do recognize that its Nuuly rental and thrift platforms are a more sustainable solution to disposable fast fashion consumption, but it doesn’t appear that this platform is replacing URBN’s core linear model of overproduction, and thus, is not truly circular.
This ultra-fast fashion brand seemingly came out of nowhere to take a top spot as a fast fashion giant, edging out competitors to become one of the least transparent apparel companies in the world. Little is known about who is running Shein, and it publishes nothing internally about how the brand operates. A recent investigation revealed Shein’s Chinese garment workers are toiling 75-plus-hours a week with one day off a month and earning piece-rate pay (in gross violation of local and international labor laws) to make the brand’s disposable duds. Perhaps it goes without saying, Shein has no sustainability or worker rights commitments to speak of. Its makers are toiling 12-hour days for a company that some estimate is turning out $15 billion in sales.
Victoria’s Secret’s attempt to rebrand itself as a feminist company, by swapping out its Angels for celebrities and athletes in its ads, has drawn criticism, and for good reason. While it is long overdue that the company include more diversity in its advertising (including showing different body sizes), a truly feminist company would empower the women of color within its own business, including paying its retail and supply chain workers living wages, which it cannot demonstrate that it does. The company still owes over $7 million to its garment makers in Thailand. Victoria’s Secret is one the least transparent companies we evaluated, with no commitments to reduce oil-derived materials like polyester and spandex, which lingerie companies use heavily; nor does the company provide much data on its diversity and inclusion goals, leaving us to conclude that its overhaul is surface-level at best.
J. Crew Inc. (which also owns Madewell) often promotes its ethical and sustainable credentials, and yet, it provides little insight into its operations. The company has made surprisingly few company-wide commitments to social and environmental sustainability. In fact, J. Crew is an outlier as a big brand that doesn’t publish a supplier list, nor has it set science-based targets to tackle climate change or set a time-bound target to move away from oil-based materials like polyester. Madewell’s Fair Trade factory initiatives seem promising, and yet it’s unclear how these fair wages compare to living wages, or how many workers across all of J. Crew factories are covered. Madewell’s online resale shop is also of note, but there are no details provided about the size of the program, nor is there any indication the company is using circularity to replace its linear production.
Gap Inc., owner of Old Navy, Athleta and Banana Republic, ticks the starter-level boxes for a big brand trying to toe the line on corporate responsibility, like publishing its Tier 1 supply chain and doing more to invest into HBCUs and create a pipeline for more diverse talent. But the company fell woefully behind its competitors by not signing onto the International Accord and allowing its trade group associations to lobby against California’s Garment Worker Protection Act. This is particularly disappointing considering Gap Inc. is an iconic California-based brand. Although it set a target to increase its use of recycled polyester and eliminate cellulosic fibers made from ancient and endangered forests, it has yet to commit to move away from oil-derived materials or increase the circularity of its business model. We are also waiting to see Gap Inc. move beyond its climate change goals towards action-based progress.
Aside from its commitment to the International Accord and basic supply chain transparency, C&A is making little more than the most basic commitments to social and environmental sustainability. Its climate commitments (30% across its entire business by 2030) are below what’s necessary to keep the planet under 1.5 degrees of warming. It has made no commitment to phase out virgin fossil fuel fabrics or increase the durability and recyclability of its products. While it has made a commitment of living wages for its garment makers, the company doesn’t demonstrate that it is accomplishing this goal. To score higher, C&A will need to show its paying fairly, using more regenerative materials and creating a more circular and less wasteful business model.
Though the billionaire-owned fast fashion brand signed onto the International Accord, it scored poorly in no small part because it never agreed to #PayUp, forcing devastating discounts on its factories and imposing longer payment terms. Though the company has set climate action targets, it has yet to reveal its greenhouse gas emissions (as has become commonplace among even smaller fashion brands). Bestseller’s catchy sustainability slogans also appear to be mostly marketing. Its splashy Fashion FWD program promises to use 100% “more sustainable cotton” and “more sustainable” polyester by 2025, rather than working to eliminate fossil fuel-based materials, replace virgin production with more circular models and invest in regenerative agriculture. Fashion FWD uses all the right buzzwords around circularity, diversity and inclusion, but for now there’s little concrete evidence that Bestseller is actually meeting these urgent social and environmental goals.
The conglomerate that owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein is praiseworthy among American companies for having signed the renewed and expanded International Accord. It was also early to #PayUp to garment makers during the pandemic. PVH launched a promising pilot resale program for Tommy Hilfiger clothes that refurbishes new items that are damaged, with expansion plans for this year. However, many of PVH’s sustainability targets are too vague (like its plan to source “100% sustainable cotton” or “identify biobased alternatives” to polyester by 2025) and lingering in the goal-setting phase, while we are looking for concrete progress on social and environmental justice. The company also loses points for allowing its trade group associations to lobby against California’s Garment Worker Protection Act.
Boohoo, which owns multiple brands including NastyGal and PrettyLittleThing, has left a particularly devastating trail of tragedy in its wake of late. The fast fashion conglomerate has been linked to wage theft in the UK, and it is being investigated by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection for slave-like conditions in some of its apparel factories. Its billionaire founder also dramatically increased his wealth during the pandemic off of the backs of the underpaid women responsible for sewing the brand’s garments — and we’re cautiously watching to see if he will make amends. In recent months, Boohoo appears to be making some efforts to address its human rights harms, publishing its supplier list, calling on the UK parliament to introduce due diligence on brands and linking executive bonuses to ESG goals. On the environmental side, Boohoo needs to set clear carbon-emission reduction targets. However, unless there are plans to replace Boohoo Group’s linear fast fashion business model with fewer and more durable products, we have our doubts it will meet them.
This British retailer started the year out right, after committing to #PayUp and supporting the International Accord. It’s also more transparent than most, publishing a list of suppliers down to the raw material level. But the company does not provide adequate data to show progress towards its social and sustainability goals, such as reducing its carbon footprint, increasing the durability and circularity of its products, or making its diversity and inclusion goals clear. If Next wants to better its score, it needs to provide evidence that it is reducing its use of natural resources and harmful chemicals, implementing repair and resale services, and reinvesting in the communities it extracts wealth from.
This British fast fashion company made some progress this year, including committing to #PayUp and signing onto the new International Accord. But when it comes to sustainability and worker well-being, Primark provides more in the way of promises and vague claims (like its goal to source regenerative cotton “at scale” by the end of the decade) than action. Disturbingly, the brand has yet to set concrete science-based targets to curb its greenhouse gas emissions. Primark talks about the importance of paying all its workers a living wage, and if it wants to pull ahead, it’ll need to demonstrate that the number of workers paid a living wage is increasing. Primark claims it’s going to start designing for durability and recyclability, but unless the company commits to make less, its circularity aspirations won’t make much of a difference.
AllBirds has reached a crossroads on its journey as a so-called sustainable brand. Having faced allegations of greenwashing in the recent past, the company was also forced to drop its claim as the first “sustainable” company to go public after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission cracked down on its exaggerated credentials. The brand scores low relative to other SMEs for its troublingly one-dimensional conception of sustainability: one that lacks a commitment to living wages and other social justice considerations. What’s more, its use of sugarcane-based shoe soles and wool fabrics come with environmental trade-offs that the brand doesn’t acknowledge, especially if the goal is to grow ultra-fast, as AllBirds seems intent on doing. As a company that has risen to a $5 billion valuation, we expect Allbirds to rein in the greenwashing tactics that have led to its eco-friendly veneer and instead center human beings while backing up its sustainable reputation with sustainable actions.
VF Corp, owner of brands like The North Face, Timberland, Vans and Supreme, ticks some of the right boxes on transparency, publishing its Tier 1 and much of its Tier 2 supply chain. It’s also a rare apparel giant that discloses the number of units of apparel and footwear it produces (approximately 400 million). We are encouraged to see that VF Corp has set science-based targets to tackle climate change and is investing in some suppliers to make low-carbon transitions, which we urgently need to see more of across the fashion industry. What pulled its score down is its lack of leadership on the International Accord on building safety, which it has yet to sign onto, as well as the lack of detail about how its sustainability goals are being achieved. We’d like to see VF move to demonstrate how it is increasing the durability, longevity and recyclability of its products across its brand portfolio; paying living wages from its retail stores to the factory floor and setting more aggressive targets to phase out virgin oil-derived materials.
We applaud ASOS for leading the way in supporting the newly expanded International Accord, putting its weight behind the call for mandatory human rights due diligence for corporations in the EU and for calling for an end to forced Uyghur labor in China. The company is also working to map its supply chain down to the raw material level. However, despite these moves in the right direction, ASOS needs to go further to secure a living wage and positive working conditions for its garment makers. We are also putting ASOS on greenwashing alert: the company grew explosively during the pandemic, buying up fast fashion brands like Topshop and Miss Selfridge and setting a disturbing goal to more than double sales in the next four years. What’s more, ASOS’s efforts to design for circularity are based on a flawed understanding of the concept — increasing the recyclability or durability of a product while churning out increasing volumes of it is not circular.
Stella McCartney was built on its founder’s outspoken ethos that centers animal welfare and sustainability, and it’s encouraging to note that the company is moving away from using virgin fossil fuel-based synthetic materials and exploring vegan fabrics that are less environmentally harmful. But the company lags behind other big brands on transparency and tracking its environmental progress. The company simply doesn’t report on many metrics we’re looking for, such as information about its regenerative agriculture efforts, details about its recycled polyester and other raw material sourcing, or its full Tier 1 supply chain information. Additionally, while the company does publicly state that all workers should receive a fair wage, there is no substantive evidence that its workers do receive a fair wage, or that Stella McCartney is facilitating payment of living wages through responsible commercial practices. We expect more across the board from Stella McCartney.
Outerknown is fantastic at marketing itself as a “sustainable clothing brand,” and it does in fact use lower-impact recycled, organic and regenerated materials, and Fair Trade and FLA accredited production. Outerknown is also embarking on circularity, having launched a peer-to-peer resale platform. And yet, its lower score reflects that it consistently lacks the data that’s become industry best practices. We’re also looking for the brand to back up many of its claims, including providing a complete list of its suppliers. Outerknown also tips into greenwashing its materials, as even “green” materials have a large environmental impact and greater material efficiencies can be outstripped by growth. We’d also like to see wage data for its factories to see if garment makers are earning living wages.
This e-commerce platform carries thousands of brands, which it claims are produced in a more responsible manner (we think its definition is too accommodating since it carries many brands that scored poorly). But when it comes to its own private-label clothing, Zalando is transparent about its production locations and signed onto the International Accord, showing a commitment to strengthening human rights. It’s a rare company that ensures its logistics workers earn the same wages as the rest of its staff (although we’ve yet to see a living wage commitment). In terms of circularity, Zalando has a large online secondhand section available in some nations, is starting to design garments with end-of-life and recyclability in mind and has also launched a “Repair and Care” program in Germany, which it has plans to expand. But we would like to see the company report more detail on wages and wellbeing and the raw materials it uses. We also think Zalando could tighten up what qualifies as “Eco-Responsible” on its website.
Levi’s was early to adopt more sustainable practices like water-saving and less toxic denim manufacturing, and among the first big brands to set an ambitious carbon-cutting target for its supply chain. Levi’s reported a reduction in CO2 in 2020 in line with its science-based target, and it is the only big company that can demonstrate this kind of progress (however, the brand says the pandemic likely contributed to the reduction, so we’ll be watching them closely next year). It also launched a SecondHand platform. But as a company that publicly commits to social and racial justice in the U.S., it was a huge miss for this iconic California-based brand to not support the landmark Garment Worker Protection Act. Moreover, the company has consistently fallen behind on labor and human rights in its supply chain by not signing onto the International Accord. The company’s wellbeing program is more marketing than substance, with the cost and risk pushed onto suppliers with no tangible investment on Levi’s part to invest and uplift garment makers, particularly during the pandemic.
Fast Retailing, owners of UNIQLO, Helmut Lang, and Theory, performed better than many of its fast-fashion competitors because the company committed to the International Accord, publishes its supplier list and some audit data, and has set living wage goals. However, there’s no evidence it’s on track to raise wages. To be clear, Fast Retailing’s founder’s wealth lept to $33 billion during the pandemic, and yet the company cannot demonstrate that it invests in the communities it extracts its value from. Although we’re heartened to see the company finally set science-based targets in alignment with a 1.5 degree pathway, its unsustainable growth plans could easily undermine these goals: Fast Retailing, as the name implies, hopes to pass H&M and Inditex as not only the largest fast fashion retailer, but the biggest clothing company in the world. We wish the company had a more admirable goal than this.
Inditex’s cultivation of trade unions and early support of the International Accord make it somewhat of a leader among the corporate giants. But perhaps it goes without saying that the second-most-profitable apparel company in the world (with an annual net income near $2 billion) could do more. The company still does not share even a Tier 1 supplier list, which is the bare necessity to hold it to account. And, there remains no evidence that Inditex is paying living wages to its garment or retail workers. Inditex seems firmly committed to its fast fashion business model and overproduction. To step up its commitments, the company needs to set higher Scope 3 emission reduction targets and commit to seriously curbing overproduction, eliminating virgin oil-derived materials, and moving towards more circular business models as a first step. We would also like to see evidence that the company supports fair pricing and responsible commercial practices with its factories year-round.
Adidas pulled ahead of its big sportswear competitors like Under Armour in part because the brand has advocated for systemic reforms in fashion, such as backing mandatory human rights due diligence legislation in the EU and the International Accord. It has also set a goal to replace all virgin polyester with recycled polyester “where solutions exist” by 2024. However, considering the company’s linear, high-volume business model, a shift in materials alone won’t add up to game-changing sustainability. As of 2020, Adidas produces nearly a half billion units of apparel [PDF] and 379 million pairs of shoes annually. We want to see the brand move away from linear production and commit to reduce total environmental impacts. What’s more, we could not find evidence that Adidas discloses its Scope 3 emissions (meaning upstream and downstream supply chain greenhouse gas emissions), making it challenging to hold the brand to account on climate action.
Nike is the single most-profitable and perhaps most influential clothing brand in the world. Every now and then it uses that influence for good, such as its commitment to tie executive pay to deepening diversity and inclusion or supporting mandatory human rights due diligence in the EU. But the company remains two-faced in its efforts, frequently slipping into woke-washing while making only the most cursory commitments to its garment makers. For example, Nike lobbied to relax the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, and despite its billion-dollar profits, the company can’t demonstrate it pays its retail workers or garment makers a living wage. Nike has set targets to reduce its use of virgin oil-derived materials, but its climate commitments still mention reducing CO2 emissions per product, which is alarming considering the company’s plan to keep chasing world-dominating growth.
Brother Vellies is the highest scoring company in the Governance section of our criteria, meaning that the company has a strong vision for retaining and investing in its employees. As a Black woman-owned luxury brand, we applaud Brother Vellies’ artisan, small-batch production and ethos of investing in marginalized communities. However, we would like to see the company disclose more information about its sustainability efforts and the workers making its products. Though Brother Vellies is said to pay artisans a living wage, we couldn’t find information on the company website to back this up. We’d also like to see more details on the brand’s environmental efforts around raw materials, carbon emissions and water stewardship.
As a brand focused on producing timelessness, quality pieces and discouraging overconsumption, Filippa K epitomizes slow fashion. The company prioritizes the longevity of its clothes, surveying consumers on the average number of wears (75) and aiming to increase that number year-over-year. It is also investing in circularity, setting up a resale platform for preowned garments and increasing mono-materials in its collections for ease of recycling. To do more, the company could report on climate impacts throughout its supply chain, and provide information about the wages, working conditions and well-being of its direct employees and those in its supply chain.
There’s no denying that Patagonia is a pioneer in sustainable material innovations and circularity via its Worn Wear program, and it reveals more information about how it operates than many big brands. What’s more, as of 2019, 39% of its apparel factories are paying their workers a living wage, and the number has grown over time. That said, there’s still much more Patagonia could be doing to push its leadership forward. For example, we’d like evidence its retail workers and direct employees are fairly compensated. We’d also like to see more evidence that the brand is moving away from its reliance on fossil fuel fabrics like polyester and addressing microplastic pollution. Patagonia is behind in setting science-based targets for reducing its absolute CO2 emissions. Finally, the brand is growing (no matter what its “buy less” advertising indicates), and its business model remains built around linear production, which threatens to undo much of the work it does to lessen its environmental impact.
Everlane rose to prominence with a story of radical transparency that has since prompted accusations of greenwashing, union-busting and systemic racism. The California-based company also never endorsed the Garment Worker Protection Act, which was notable, considering many other small sustainable brands in the state vocally supported it. With a new CEO and a lot of internal restructuring, the brand is headed somewhere, and we’re hoping it’s somewhere radically better. Everlane has invested in career development to increase diversity in the past year, but we felt it’s too soon to evaluate the depth and efficacy of these efforts just yet. We’re pleased to see the company phasing out significant percentages of virgin polyester and nylon (so-called fossil fuel fabrics), using a high percentage of recycled content in its plastic shoe components and setting science-based targets. To get ahead, Everlane still needs to move beyond lowest wages and towards living wages, as well as reveal more about its supply chain. We also hope that it doesn’t pursue aggressive levels of growth like other so-called “sustainable” startups.
Mara Hoffman is a leader in sustainable luxury, introducing swimwear made with recycled nylon, knitwear made from climate beneficial wool and compostable packaging before many of its competitors. It has also moved into circularity by launching a resale platform, Full Circle, and committing to binding brand accountability, putting its weight behind the Garment Worker Protection Act in California by officially endorsing it. We’d still like to see Mara Hoffman provide more detail around both its social and environmental practices, including progress on living wages and the brand’s diversity and inclusion commitments.
This British retailer surprised us this year, committing to both the International Accord and signing the Call to Action to end Uyghur forced labor, making it one of the biggest companies to commit thus far. It also has a year-round responsible exit strategy, meaning the company not only agrees to #PayUp and honor contracts with factories during the pandemic, but as a matter of policy. We encourage the company to take the next step and adopt the Buyer Code of Conduct and invest in its factories as it moves to decarbonize and work to pay living wages. The retailer demonstrates that it is somewhat knowledgeable about what it means to be sustainable, but it lags behind other companies in phasing out virgin oil-derived materials and designing for circularity.
Gucci is more transparent than other luxury giants, but it’s unable to show it’s making progress towards many of our metrics. While there’s evidence the company pays as much as 50% of its garment workers a living wage, we were unable to find public information to back this up. What’s more, while Gucci has made progress on publishing its Tier 1 suppliers, it’s important to note that more extensive transparency down to textile mills and raw materials suppliers is expected at this point. What’s more, the company measures its climate change commitment relative to growth, rather than measuring overall reduction in absolute emissions. While Gucci rides on the perception that it’s luxury, it operates much like a fast fashion brand, churning out products constantly throughout the year. It cannot demonstrate that it’s phasing out virgin fossil fuel fabrics or displacing a linear growth model with resale or other circular models.
The British luxury giant has made some promising environmental and social commitments. We welcome Burberry tying executive pay to environmental performance and paying their UK direct and indirect employees a living wage, with some workers covered under collective bargaining agreements. We would like to see more of Burberry’s supply chain workers being covered by similar collective bargaining agreements and making a living wage. Burberry has banned the destruction of unsold product and made some investments in repair services and regenerative agriculture. We would like more information on Burberry’s raw material suppliers, total amount of production and ways that the brand is reducing reliance on virgin resources. As one of the most-profitable fashion companies on the planet, we expect Burberry to do much more, including greater transparency around its raw material and cut-sew suppliers, overall carbon emissions and targets to reduce the brand’s climate footprint. We would like to see Burberry commit to a Buyer Code of Conduct, and invest in its suppliers and communities to reduce its overall environmental impact. Finally, we would like to see all of the garment makers who bring the Burberry product to life have the same benefits as the brand’s UK workers.
H&M Group is our second highest-scoring big company, mostly because it is one of the most transparent clothing giants – revealing details about its factory wages and the number of unionized workers. It has also heavily invested in textile recycling and expanded its resale and rental initiatives within subsidiary brands COS and Arket, respectively. H&M is also one of few companies pushing for legally binding corporate responsibility, having backed the mandatory due diligence on brands in the EU and the International Accord. However, this is low-hanging fruit for H&M. Knowing your supply chain is not the same as taking full accountability for the people, communities and environmental impacts in those supply chains. We also question H&M Group’s ideals of “sustainability for all,” which greenwashes its existing business model of churning out increasing volumes of clothes made with slightly less damaging materials. What’s more, it’s Scope 3 climate action goals, which are measured as a reduction in emissions per piece of clothing, are concerning, as the company’s pace of growth could easily outstrip these efforts. If the company truly wants to lead, it should prove that it provides fair prices to its factories in addition to living wages, scale up financial incentives for suppliers on their path to becoming low-carbon, and be the first to adopt the Buyer Code of Conduct. As a final point, in order to truly transition away from a linear business model, H&M Group needs to focus on displacing virgin production with use-phase-extending circularity initiatives (repair, rental, resale) just as much as it does on recyclability. And its clothing takeback program, which it claims is now the world’s largest, needs to be fully transparent, revealing where the clothes it collects ultimately end up. This is urgently important as it’s unclear if clothes deemed rewearable are in fact exported to, and essentially trashed in, the Global South.
Boyish Jeans advocates for worker empowerment, having endorsed California’s Garment Worker Protection Act (SB62) to ensure garment workers earn at least a minimum wage. We also applaud the brand for working to make durable, long-lasting products that are recyclable and reducing the denim industry’s reliance on petroleum-based materials by pursuing plant-based alternatives to stretch fabrics. The company says it is also recycling some of its own waste back into new denim products. However, we want to see Boyish move beyond setting goals to pay living wages towards actually accomplishing it. The brand should also bump up its supply chain transparency.
Nudie Jeans is the highest-scoring brand in our Traceability section thanks to its full supply chain visibility and the wage data provided for many of its core suppliers. Its retail workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements, and the denim brand also does a lot in the circularity space, providing repair services in stores and at-home repair kits. We also commend the company for phasing out BCI cotton due to its lack of traceability, alongside its ambitions to source raw materials with more robust social and environmental credentials. We have lingering questions, however, about Nudie’s living wage commitments; the brand says it pays its “fair share,” but it’s unclear what this means. We would like to see Nudie Jeans go even further to ensure that all raw biogenic and natural materials are farmed regeneratively.
This LA-based slow fashion brand provides transparency around its costing and wages, and it states that it pays its California dressmakers and its Farm-to-Closet workers in India with a living wage, although we want to see third-party audits and transparency to confirm this information as the company produces more outside of its own factory. The brand also vocally supported California’s Garment Worker Protection Act. On the environmental side, Christy Dawn designs garments that are made to last and largely utilizes deadstock materials, including leather and organic cotton. While we’re all for reusing waste materials, we’d like to see more transparency around how Christy Dawn sources its deadstock materials.
Organic Basics scores well for its transparency deep into its supply chain, carbon emission disclosures and its overall small, resilient business model. We applaud Organic Basics for limiting its use of nylon and elastane (oil-derived materials) to below 10% of its total usage, as well as scaling pilot projects in regenerative cotton farming. On the policy front, Organic Basics supports grassroots activities and organizations that address the planet’s environmental crises through the Organic Basic Fund. However, the brand could do better to consider a garment’s end-of-life impact for most of its products. We’d also like to see more data and evidence that the company is assuring living wages to both its staff and supply chain workers.
Activewear brand Girlfriend Collective is a leader in circularity, designing its workout gear to be recycled and aiming to use the highest feasible percentage of recycled plastics and nylon. It is also notably transparent about where and how it collects the PET bottles that wind up in its leggings. We’re also impressed by the fact that the brand is scaling a textile-to-textile recycling project to turn more Girlfriend Collective pieces back into new clothes, although we’d like more transparency around this project. Girlfriend Collective professes that workers are paid a fair and living wage, but we need more evidence that this is the case. What’s more, as an athleisure brand, GC needs to demonstrate more action on synthetic microfibers or ultimately move towards alternatives.
Reformation is in the midst of a turnaround, after its CEO stepped down last year due to accusations of creating a racist work culture. The company has worked to foster a more diverse talent pipeline and hold itself accountable to creating a welcoming work space for people of color, but it’s too early to track the company’s progress on this front. On the sustainability side, Reformation remains committed to phasing out fossil fuel fabrics that shed microfibers, including recycled polyester, in favor of materials like regenerative cotton and recycled man-made cellulosics. What’s more, 53% of Reformation’s own team members, including its garment makers in the company-owned factory and its retail workers, earn a living wage (with a goal of 100%). Reformation has also shown leadership in systemic reform to hold brands accountable, endorsing California’s Garment Worker Protection Act as well as signing the Call to Action to End Forced Labour in the Uyghur Region. Lastly, Reformation is working on a closed-loop takeback program, but we do worry about its growth. While Reformation circulates a substantial volume of clothing through a partnership with thredUP, for example, it does not appear to be working to replace its linear business model with a truly circular one.
The French sneaker company is one of our highest-scoring brands this year, thanks to its strong commitments to social and environmental justice. Veja shares detailed information about its suppliers, where many workers have trade unions. However, we’d like more detail about how many of these workers are earning living wages. Notably, the company says it’s paying raw materials suppliers above-market price for materials like organic cotton and rubber to make sure they can live decently and reinvest in their farms, a leading example of fair commercial practices. We also appreciate Veja’s informative, detailed report on its supply chain carbon emissions (which the rest of the industry should take a page from) and on the struggles and tradeoffs of finding sustainable materials at scale. However, the brand does not appear to have concrete goals to tackle its emissions. And while the brand is piloting repair and recycling, we’d also like to see results there, given footwear’s often long and toxic life in landfills.
One of our highest-ranking brands, MUD Jeans, has built a circular fashion model in which customers can lease jeans and return them through a take-back program. It offers free repairs within the first year of purchase, and while the company already uses a high percentage of recycled denim in its jeans, it’s striving for 100%. The brand is transparent about its CO2 emissions and its full supply chain (one of only three brands to do so). As a small brand, the company remains committed to a slow and resilient business model. While MUD Jeans ensures its factory workers are supplied with free schooling and medicine, we’d like to see it demonstrate progress to ensure all of its employees, direct and indirect, are paid a living wage.
Eileen Fisher remains a leader in sustainable fashion, pulling ahead thanks to its endorsing of the Garment Worker Protection Act and for profit-sharing with its employees. It is also relatively transparent, mapping its garment factories, most textile mills and dye houses and a few raw material suppliers and farms; although, it admits to backsliding on its mission to pay living wages in its supply chain. Eileen Fisher is also strong in the Raw Materials section of our criteria, investing into regenerative agriculture and clean chemistry and dyes while also committing to source high-quality biogenic fibers like organic linen. Its Renew program, which refurbishes and repairs its clothing at scale, has proven that circularity can be economically viable, earning $4 million annually, as of 2019. We hope Eileen Fisher increases traceability and provides living wages to all of its supply chain workers in the near future while continuing to be open about challenges along the way.
Nisolo is our highest-scoring brand, in no small part because the company used its feedback time to put relevant information about its substantial social sustainability efforts in the public domain. This is exactly what we want brands to do, so citizens and workers can hold brands to account. The Nashville-based leather goods brand is notable as the only company that provides evidence that not only do its garment makers and direct employees earn a living wage, but so do its models, photographers, photo assistants and logistics workers. The company is also transparent about how many products it produces (61,773) and its carbon footprint. However, there are areas where Nisolo can improve, namely revealing more information about its raw material suppliers, especially given leather’s often high-impact production process and struggles with traceability. We also want to see the company accelerate its circularity plans, noting the fact that most footwear is nearly impossible to recycle.
Our methodology is transparent. You can click through to any brand’s Scoresheet to see how we ranked them. While we fully understand that our community will likely always use our assessment of brands as a measure for finding and supporting sustainable companies, the limitations of the “conscious consumer” have been exposed and so-called ethical shopping is giving way to the much more effective cause of consumer activism. Therefore, it is our hope that this report will be used more prominently as an educational and advocacy tool that moves beyond the scope of shopping carts.
We hope our methodology spurs you to do more good, not less harm. You can get to 150 points, but don’t make this another box-ticking exercise. Rather than chasing points, use this report and your score to ignite internal dialogue, begin measuring what matters and publish better data in the public domain.
Know that using your voice matters. We saw substantial progress in Tier 1 supply chain transparency, animal welfare and basic carbon reporting commitments precisely because of activists like you demanding more from brands.
To continue to drive change, sign the PayUp Fashion petition, a worker-centric blueprint to build back better. Each time the PayUp Fashion petition is signed, brand executives at fashion’s most profitable companies receive an email notification letting them know that we are demanding more of them, including putting an end to starvation wages, supporting legal reform that shifts accountability back onto the companies themselves and making transparency the standard when it comes to where their clothes are made, the environmental impact of their manufacturing and how much workers are paid.
Already signed? Donate to Remake. We take no money from the fashion industry. Your support allows us to score and add more brands and retailers into our brand directory.
We hope these scores support your ongoing fight for living wages, safety nets and collective bargaining agreements. We hope to see more solidarity across retail, warehouse and garment workers, and the urgency felt by Global South unions and labor leaders matched by union colleagues in the North.
Leverage the political power of conscious consumers and fashion businesses working to make change. Support the passage of smart regulation like California’s Garment Worker Protection Act that includes brand liability for wage theft. Without corporate accountability, progress will stall.
We invite you to lean on this report, using the information to raise the bar on the way industry-related sustainability is covered. We hope this report serves as a resource to cut past companies’ greenwashing efforts and to drive dialogue with companies on their performance rather than their sustainability-related promises and marketing campaigns.
By combining collective action, strong policies and binding commitments with independent accountability tools like this one, we believe there is a clear path forward to transform fashion into a force for good.
In the process of making this report, we were fortunate to draw from the expertise of labor rights organizations; professors of human rights, employment, fashion and law; and experts in the fields of sustainability, environmental justice and circular economy. We are grateful to the contributions of the following people:
Founder and Executive Director, Awaj Foundation
Nazma Akter is the founder and Executive Director of Awaj Foundation. Awaj Foundation is a grassroots labour rights NGO with over 600,000 members in Bangladesh who strive to amplify workers’ voices for decent working conditions. She started working in a garment factory at age 11, alongside her mother who was also a garment worker, first as a helper and then as a machine operator. She has been fighting to improve workers’ rights, especially women workers, in the garment sector in Bangladesh for over 32 years. Nazma is also the President of Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, one of the largest union federations in Bangladesh, and co-chair of Asia Pacific Women’s Committee of IndustriALL Global Union.
“In Remake’s transparency report, we hope to reflect on global supply chain transparency, systematic change, and equal power distribution between brand and suppliers, workers and government. We aim to make better industrial relations, freedom of expression, right to organize, right to bargaining, so we can make a better future for all of us.
All brands must sign the Accord. The Accord not only saves the lives of the workers but also helps workers to raise their voices. Let’s commit to end gender-based violence at the workplace. ”
– NAZMA AKTER
Professor of Labor and Employment Relations, and Political Science, Penn State University
United States of America
Mark Anner is a professor of labor and employment relations and political science. He is also the founding director of the Center for Global Workers’ Rights. He holds a Ph.D. in Government from Cornell University and a Master’s Degree in Latin American Studies from Stanford University. Dr. Anner’s research examines freedom of association and corporate social responsibility, labor law reform and enforcement, and workers’ rights in apparel’s global supply chains. His field research has taken him to El Salvador, Honduras, Brazil, Vietnam, Bangladesh, India, and Guatemala. Before beginning his academic career, he lived in Latin America for eleven years where he worked with labor unions and a labor research center.
Executive Director, Fibershed
United States of America
Rebecca Burgess is the Executive Director of Fibershed, and Chair of the Board for Carbon Cycle Institute. She is also the author of the best-selling book Harvesting Color, a bioregional look into the natural dye traditions of North America, and Fibershed: Growing a Movement of Farmers, Fashion Activists, and Makers for a New Textile Economy. Rebecca has over a decade of experience writing and implementing a hands-on curriculum that focuses on the intersection of restoration ecology and fiber systems. She has taught at Harvard University, Westminster College and has created workshops for a range of nonprofits and corporations.
Professor of Law, Rutgers Law School
United States of America
Professor Dadush writes and teaches at the intersection of business and human rights, consumer law, and social enterprise law. Her work explores innovative, public and private legal mechanisms for improving the social and environmental performance of multinational corporations. Before joining the Rutgers faculty, Professor Dadush served as Legal Counsel and Partnership Officer for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations based in Rome. Before that, she was a Fellow at NYU’s Institute for International Law and Justice. She received her J.D. and LL.M. in International and Comparative Law from Duke University School of Law.
Author, Activist, and Research Professor, University of the Arts London
Kate Fletcher’s work is rooted in nature’s principles and engaged with the cultural and creative forces of fashion and design. She is a Research Professor of Sustainability, Design, Fashion at the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, University of the Arts London. Kate has over 70 scholarly and popular publications in the field. She is author of Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys (2008) and Craft of Use: Post-Growth Fashion (2016), co-author of Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change (2012), co-editor of Sustainability and Fashion (2015), and Opening Up the Wardrobe: A Methods Book (2017). Kate is also a co-founder of the Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion, which formed in 2018.
“This report is important because it is not the path most travelled. It takes us to new fashion sector territory including pressing questions about growth.”
– KATE FLETCHER
Fiber and Materials Lead: Animal Materials, Textile Exchange
Anna Heaton has been working internationally on animal welfare and sustainable livestock management for over 15 years. Before joining Textile Exchange, she helped design and execute various standards across a wide range of animal species for both the food and fashion industries. This included consultancy work for Textile Exchange on the Responsible Wool Standard, Responsible Mohair Standard, and Responsible Animal Standard. Along with Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network, Anna developed standards for wildlife-friendly farming and tourism. Anna also has a long history of working with farmers and farmer groups in the United Kingdom on organic and regenerative land management.
Assistant Professor of Fashion Studies, Ryerson University
Kimberly Jenkins is an Assistant Professor of Fashion Studies in the School of Fashion at Ryerson University, lecturing previously at Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute. An educator specializing in fashion history and theory, Kim became best known for designing an elective course and exhibition entitled, ‘Fashion and Race,’ and working as an education consultant for Gucci to support their efforts on cultural inclusion and diversity. Kim is the founder of The Fashion and Race Database – an online platform filled with open-source tools that expand the narrative of fashion history and challenge misrepresentation within the fashion system.
“This report is critical to holding our leaders in the industry accountable, because their actions must align with their vision and purpose. This report will shed light on the rampant greenwashing and whitewashing we see, and will leave no room for marketing dollars to rinse away the egregious practices that have placed laborers and our precious environmental resources in a precarious position.”
– KIMBERLY JENKINS
Vice President, Higg Index, Sustainable Apparel Coalition
Jeremy Lardeau is the Vice President of Higg Index in the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. The Higg Index is a suite of tools for the standardized measurement of value chain sustainability. Before joining the SAC team, Jeremy was Senior Director of Sustainability Analytics, at Nike, Inc. where he led sustainability reporting, performance management, data products, and reporting. Prior to Nike, Jeremy was a manager with PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers) sustainability practice. Jeremy holds a Masters in Industrial Engineering from the Ecole Centrale Paris.
Vice President and ESG Senior Research Analyst for Calvert Research and Management
United States of America
Hellen Mbugua is a Vice President and ESG Senior Research Analyst for Calvert Research and Management. Calvert specializes in responsible and sustainable investing across global capital markets. She is responsible for environmental, social and governance (ESG) research in the apparel and retail industries. Prior to her work in private equity, Hellen was an associate director at Pacific Alternative Asset Management Company (PAAMCO), and she worked at State Street Corporation and Segal Consulting’s actuarial practice. Hellen earned a B.S. from the University of California Santa Barbara and an MBA from the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, where she was a Robert Toigo Fellow. She was born and raised in Kenya and speaks three languages.
“Alternative data, as presented by Remake’s Accountability Report, is paramount in helping to differentiate companies on financially material factors in the apparel industry.”
– HELLEN MBUGUA
Co-founder, Sustainable Brooklyn
United States of America
Whitney McGuire is an attorney for creative entrepreneurs specializing in intellectual property. She is the co-founder of Sustainable Brooklyn, a community-based initiative that bridges the gap between the mainstream sustainability movement and targeted communities.Outside of the law, she is the co-owner of SwiMMMers Ear, a Brooklyn-based creative consulting/multi-media production company with her husband, multiple-discipline artist, Nelson Nance. Through her work, she champions the sustainability of those hailing from targeted communities including artists and advocates. Whitney obtained her J.D. from Catholic University of America and her B.A. from The George Washington University.
President, Apparel Impact Institute
United States of America
Lewis Perkins is the President of the Apparel Impact Institute (Aii) which is a collaboration of brands, manufacturers and industry stakeholders that came together to select, fund and scale high-impact projects that dramatically and measurably improve the sustainability outcomes of the apparel and footwear industry. Previously Perkins was President of the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute (C2CPII) which is a non-profit organization focused on transforming the making and consumption of things into a regenerative force for the planet. Prior to C2CPII, Perkins served as Director of Sustainable Strategies for The Mohawk Group with a focus on driving marketing strategy for the commercial carpet manufacturer’s environmental initiatives. Perkins holds a Master of Business Administration in marketing and strategy with a focus on social responsibility from Emory University and a Bachelor of Arts from Washington & Lee University.
ELIZABETH (LIZ) RICKETTS
Founder, The OR Foundation
Ghana and United States of America
Liz Ricketts is a fashion designer, educator and founder of The OR Foundation. The OR Foundation is a USA and Ghana based not-for-profit working at the intersection of environmental justice, education and fashion development. They aim to liberate young people from their dominant consumer relationship with fashion, riddled with excess and exploitation. Their initiatives include Dead White Man’s Clothes, Collectofus and The Sustainable Fashion Initiative at University of Cincinnati DAAP. Liz’s work looks at overconsumption and overproduction within the fashion industry, and attempts to engage people in alternatives.
DR. JENNIFER RUSSELL
Assistant Professor of Circular Economy, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
United States of America
Dr. Russell is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sustainable Biomaterials, at the College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech. Her area of expertise is in economic systems-modeling, with a focus on the environmental impacts associated with industrial use of resources and energy. She is the co-author of the UNEP International Resource Panel publication “Re-defining Value – The Manufacturing Revolution”, and is committed to research and education on the value, potential, and tangible opportunities of the circular economy. Dr. Russell holds a PhD in Sustainable Systems from Rochester Institute of Technology. Prior to pursuing academia, Dr. Russell worked as a sustainability consultant for 10 years, for multinational Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) clients based across North America and Europe.
Business and Human Rights Specialist
London, United Kingdom
Olivia is an independent business and human rights specialist currently based in the UK. Prior to working independently, Olivia worked with the Labour Rights team at Laudes Foundation (formerly C&A Foundation) and at Impact UK. Olivia holds an MSc with Distinction from SOAS University, London.
“Good jobs cannot exist where there are bad business practices. Remake’s increased focus on commercial practices signals a new era of business accountability and scrutiny in apparel supply chains that is necessary for decent work. It is a timely and welcome contribution to the sector.”
– OLIVIA WINDHAM-STEWART
KPI – Key Performance Indicator
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