Remake

Fashion
Accountability
Report

An assessment of 58 of the world’s largest companies across fast fashion, luxury and big box retail + sustainable alternatives.

Remake Annual Accountability Report 2022

Best viewed in Adobe Acrobat.

Contents

Section 1:
Executive Summary

Systemic Change Vs the Status Quo:
A Tale of Two Truths in Fashion

2022 was a tale of two opposing truths in fashion: a glimmer of systemic change amidst a prevailing flood of harmful industry practices.

We witnessed an incredible pull back to the status quo. We are back to cheap consumerism, high profits, low wages, massive greenwashing, tokenistic racial justice and the constant churn of new collections. SHEIN — the Amazon of fashion — somehow rose to dominance, even though consumer interest in sustainability is at an all-time high. Boohoo launched a “sustainable” collection with Kourtney Kardashian Barker while the company was simultaneously being investigated for forced labor by the U.S. government and greenwashing by the UK government[1][2].  

This, however, is not the full picture. Fashion’s old ways are swimming against a powerful undercurrent of systemic change. In particular, there are strong new policies on worker and human rights, transparency, and greenwashing winding their way through legislatures; there has been a surge in corporate action around climate change and a rapid rise in unionization; and we are witnessing seismic changes in geopolitical relations, as well as the rise of increasingly organized sustainable fashion social movements. These changes are redressing fashion behind the scenes.

Change is afoot. We will see a different fashion industry within a decade, and yet, who this industry will serve is still up for grabs. 

Remake’s theory of change is simple: Pay people in fashion a living wage, as this is the best way to simultaneously deliver a fair society and fight climate change. Overproduction is fueled by low wages, and the transition to a net-zero future is impossible without massive investments in clean energy and in frontline communities that will take on much of the burden of decarbonizing. We need an intersectional, just approach to sustainability, and we need voluntary action to be replaced with and bolstered by bold policies and binding agreements.

Fashion Policy Replaces Transparency as the Dominant Mode of Change

One of the leading positive trends of 2022 is that fashion policy took center stage. It has moved into the mainstream and it is now shaping legislative agendas around the world. The passage of the Garment Worker Protection Act (SB62) in California in 2021 — hard-fought and hard-won — helped to inspire a wave of proposed policies in the United States and in Europe that aim to protect labor, human rights and the planet. This is a remarkable shift away from the calls for voluntary commitments and transparency that have shaped fashion for the better part of three decades.

In May of this year, the United States Congress introduced a successor law to SB62 called the Fashioning Accountability and Building Real Institutional Change, or FABRIC, Act. The bill, which includes strong provisions that both hold companies accountable for supply chain wages and incentivize investments in domestic manufacturing, has, at the time of writing, 186 official endorsers, including some of the companies featured in this report. In June, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act (UFLPA) went into effect in the United States. This law will further force the industry to know where and how its products are made. Supply chain disclosures are certainly becoming both broader and deeper, as is evidenced throughout this report, but a new era is upon us: Radical transparency is no longer a nice-to-have. 

Other noteworthy legislative efforts include New York State’s Fashion Workers Act, which would protect contract workers in fashion, such as models and makeup artists. Human and labor rights groups continue to try to strengthen the New York Fashion Sustainability and Social Accountability Act (Fashion Act), so that it may become a transformative bill in terms of human rights as well as climate. In Europe, the European Union is soon to adopt a directive on Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence which would require companies to understand and address human and environmental risks in their supply chains. Building on these efforts, this year EU civil society organizations launched a living wage campaign, the Good Clothes, Fair Pay, calling on fashion companies to raise pay in their supply chains.

How large companies interact with these policies as they move through legislatures will be the question of 2023. Will they stand in the way of progress and hide behind industry associations that lobby against worker-driven laws? Or will they stand up for transformative change?

Climate Action Is Here, but Is Fashion Ready to Fund a Just Transition in the Global South?

Another positive development this year is the number of companies setting aggressive targets to tackle climate change. As we write in the Environmental Justice section of this report, companies are increasingly publishing their full carbon footprint, inclusive of all of their supply chain emissions (and the figures are, perhaps unsurprisingly, staggering). What’s more, many are setting both short- and long-term science-based targets (SBTs) to reduce their carbon emissions in line with The Paris Agreement, which aims to keep the planet below 1.5℃ of warming. 

Some companies are making headway on reducing their direct emissions. Nevertheless, as our data captures, only three companies this year can report that they are making progress towards reducing their overall carbon footprint in line with their fully-approved science-based targets. And even these reductions are still likely largely attributable to the pandemic slump that extended into 2021. 

It is not difficult to see why progress on climate is sluggish: The fashion industry continues to chase unsustainable growth. But that is not the only reason. At the highest level, the fashion industry understands that it simply has to take action on climate change, but a critical piece in its mitigation efforts is missing: massive direct investments into factories and fiber producers in the Global South. To reach net-zero will require manufacturing facilities to maximize energy efficiency, eliminate the use of coal and totally shift to renewable electricity. Regenerative farming and fiber production practices will also need to be scaled[3]

According to the Apparel Impact Institute (Aii), decarbonizing fashion could cost the fashion industry the better part of $1 trillion[4]. The only way to ensure a transition to net-zero is both feasible and fair is for large companies to pay their fair share in helping factories decarbonize so that they can cover this work and continue to safeguard the employment of their workers. Companies must do their part to ensure a just transition to a carbon neutral future. However, there is scant evidence that this is happening at the levels necessary, yet.

Following the Historic Success of #Payup, the First Company Commits to Ethical Commercial Practices

In more positive news, Ganni becomes the first company (to our knowledge) that has taken the first steps to fix fashion’s broken commercial practices, which harm garment workers and stunt true sustainable development. During the early months of the pandemic, fashion companies canceled $40 billion worth of clothing in production, triggering layoffs without pay and a massive humanitarian crisis. This also unleashed a hugely successful social movement called #PayUp. Spearheaded by Remake, this global campaign not only helped to recoup $22 billion back to factories and garment workers, but it also energized calls for an overhaul of commercial practices in fashion. Companies are now being asked to commit to not only pay in full for what they order, but to pay fair prices and not make last-minute changes to orders that puts workers’ lives in peril. Most importantly, these commitments should be enshrined in contracts, making them become legally binding.

Nearly three years later, where does the industry stand on commercial practices? In this report, we highlight one company — Ganni — who claims to have adopted a responsible Buyer Code of Conduct, committing to fair commercial practices. This is an exciting development, and we have heard from other companies who are on the cusp of making similar formal assurances in the coming year. We look forward to them putting their words into action.

The Future of Fashion Is Circular and Net-Zero, but Who Will It Serve?

One concerning, and rapidly growing, trend we have seen over the past couple of years is the corporate capture of circularity, namely brand-owned resale and rental offerings, which could unleash massive social and environmental rebound effects. There is now widespread evidence that companies are using circularity to greenwash. 

Resale programs are on the rise, and while they give consumers a lower-impact way to shop, they have also become a way to distract from the fact that companies are, in reality, continuing to churn out new products and pursue business as usual. In October, SHEIN — the Chinese ultra-fast fashion company — launched a peer-to-peer resale platform, joining in on what is, according to thredUP, now a $35 billion industry, and casting fresh doubts on the future of the so-called circular economy[5].

Unfortunately, the promise of circularity — that the more we buy used clothes, the fewer new clothes will be produced — is far from our current reality. Consumers are now just consuming more of both, which means that environmental impact is increasing for every garment produced. Our report captures no data showing that either the Global North’s overall consumption or individual nation-level consumption of clothing and footwear is going down. Global virgin fiber production is, in fact, still going up. It increased by another 3 million tonnes in 2020 alone, according to Textile Exchange, even in the depths of a pandemic[6].  

There was a broader reckoning on greenwashing in fashion in 2022, though, as regulators in the UK, Norway and the Netherlands cracked down on misleading claims and, just as importantly, issued clear guidance to companies on how to truthfully describe their sustainability work. The industry-backed Higg Materials Sustainability Index, which was being used to create consumer-facing sustainability labels, is undergoing an internal review. At writing, H&M Group (H&M, COS, ARKET, & Other Stories) has pulled its sustainable clothing labels for reexamination, as it faces a class action lawsuit for consumer deception in the United States. And, as mentioned above, the UK government is investigating Boohoo, ASOS and Asda for greenwashing[7].

The greenwashing uproar is, we think, a good sign. It shows the maturation of the sustainable fashion movement. Consumers and experts alike are calling for better, more standardized data; more government oversight around claims; and more thorough and nuanced life cycle assessments of products.

But good data will only get us so far. The evidence presented throughout this report shows that sustainability agendas continue to put labor and human rights on the backburner, ignoring the centrality of living wages and safe working conditions in achieving climate resilient supply chains. 

Signs abound that the future of fashion will be circular and carbon neutral. But what remains to be seen is if this greener industry will be built around new kinds of extreme exploitation (“green” capitalism), or if it will be built around justice, equality, and decentralized and democratic participation. It is not too late to steer towards the latter. By combining collective action, strong policies and binding commitments with independent accountability tools like this one, the Remake Fashion Accountability Report 2022 shows that there is a clear path forward to transform fashion into a force for good.

Section 2:
About This Report​

What’s New

This is the second annual Remake Fashion Accountability Report based on our updated scoring system, which measures companies’ actions towards social and environmental justice goals, rather than their promises alone. As we worked to fine-tune our new scoring system, we made a few more changes this year:

    • We scored a number of new companies, including, Chanel, Desigual, Disney, Hanesbrands Inc., Kering (last year, we scored Gucci but not the Kering conglomerate), LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Celine, Dior), MUJI, Ralph Lauren, REI, River Island, Rothy’s, Puma and Savage X Fenty. This brings the total number of large companies we assessed up to 58 from 46. What’s more, a few companies from last year, such as C&A, did not release their annual sustainability reports in time to be included.
    • Smaller, sustainable and ethical fashion businesses (those earning less than USD $100 million in annual revenue and self-described as sustainable or ethical) are no longer folded into the aggregate scores, as this proved not to be a fair, apples-to-apples comparison. Sustainable small and medium-sized enterprises will still be lifted up in the report via our new Small Sustainable Businesses section. 
    • This year’s three salient Spotlight Issues track companies’ commitments to the International Accord, to a single global standard for products sourced from China’s Xinjiang region in line with the updated End Uyghur Forced Labor Call to Action and to acting responsibly around pandemic-related wage theft in the supply chain. 
    • We eliminated negative scoring of the Spotlight Issues in order to create a baseline to compare year-over-year progress. Instead, we have shifted to using these issues as neutral-scored case studies.
    • Finally, we have added a more substantial Methodology section to share further details about how we score.

How the Remake Fashion Accountability Report Is Different

    • We score companies based on business model, meaning some points are off-limits to those that prioritize excessive sales growth as well as those that profit off low-quality trend cycles.
    • We score companies on progress not promises. Points are mostly awarded in connection to demonstrable action towards clear targets (like increasing the number of workers who earn a living wage or meeting carbon reduction targets).
    • We evaluate companies holistically, from the diversity of corporate leadership to the wages paid to retail and garment workers to the animal welfare on farms.
    • We do not separate social impacts from environmental impacts in any category, as these two avenues of progress are deeply intertwined.
    • We take no funding from the fashion industry, ensuring our ability to serve as an independent third-party watchdog.

How to Use This Report

The Fashion Accountability Report and Remake’s accountability scoresheet are, together, intended to serve as a roadmap and North Star for systemic social and environmental change in fashion. There is a temptation to boil scores into a list of “good” and “bad” companies, but it is our hope that this report will be used more prominently as an educational and advocacy tool that shapes necessary and transformative progress, both within the industry and from the outside in.

For Citizens

Your voice matters. Areas where we see the most progress occurring — like climate action, toxic chemical reduction and fair pay — came about because of social movements when everyday citizens demanded more from companies. Use the Fashion Accountability Report and our corresponding Brand Directory as an educational tool to participate in campaigns, to organize and support policies for reform, and to push the companies you purchase from to do better. For example, you can:

For Companies and Employees

Fashion companies are encouraged to use the Fashion Accountability Report and our accountability scoresheet as a roadmap to shape internal dialogue, public disclosures, and programming around social and environmental impacts. We want companies to do better and score well, but we primarily see the Fashion Accountability Report as a tool the industry will use to make and track change. The Fashion Accountability Report and the accountability scoresheet can be used to:

    • Inform internal dialogue. We encourage industry professionals to share it internally. 
    • Shape and standardize the sustainability information disclosed in the public domain every year. 
    • Help inform internal resources and priorities around how the intersectional and holistic goals outlined in our report shapes companies.

If you would like to submit your company for scoring, or if your company has  already been scored and you would like to submit updated information about your sustainability commitments, please reach us at becca@remake.world. You may also download an accountability scoresheet and complete a self-assessment by following the instructions at the bottom of our Brand Directory.

For Policymakers

Policymakers are encouraged to use the Fashion Accountability Report as an educational tool to design and inform worker-driven policy, to build support for fashion-centric legislation, and to learn about the companies that are supporting initiatives like the FABRIC Act and the International Accord. We urge elected leaders to continue to ensure that policies deliver for garment workers and other disempowered communities in fashion supply chains and that they include strong provisions for accountability within the industry.

For Press

We hope that the Fashion Accountability Report serves as a resource to help cut past companies’ greenwashing efforts and to drive dialogue with them on what matters. We invite you to lean on this report for nuanced story ideas and to raise the bar on the way fashion sustainability is covered.

Methodology

How This Criteria Was Created

Remake has been evaluating fashion companies on their social and environmental progress since 2016. In 2021, with the climate crisis looming large and the industry’s grossly unethical treatment of its garment workers during the pandemic in the spotlight, we moved to raise the bar on accountability in fashion by revising and strengthening the criteria by which we evaluate companies.

It is undeniably clear that transparency, though absolutely necessary and foundational to sustainability, is not enough. The fashion industry needs radically different business models and new modes of thinking in order for it to be able to operate within our finite planetary boundaries and deliver equity for its workforce. Thus, we sought out the input of a host of expert stakeholders to help us create a set of ambitious, moonshot goals that will propel the industry in the right direction and ensure a just transition for all along the way. You can meet those stakeholders in the Advisors section of this report. 

Together with labor rights organizations; professors of human rights, employment, and law; and thought leaders in the fields of environmental justice, degrowth and circularity, we have built a framework that measures fashion companies’ progress towards true accountability in the following six areas:

    • Traceability
    • Wages and Wellbeing
    • Commercial Practices
    • Raw Materials
    • Environmental Justice
    • Governance 

Scope of the Research

Our accountability assessments rely only on information that is in the public domain, most notably that which is published in companies’ own sustainability and annual reports, or on their websites. This is to encourage companies to fully trace and measure the impacts of their supply chains so that they may set ambitious targets to mitigate their negative social and environmental footprints, as well as to ensure that there is a way for these companies to be publicly held accountable for meeting these targets.

Please note that data presented in this report is current as of October 2022.

How We Score

Remake’s accountability assessment criteria scores fashion companies on their progress towards social and environmental goals across six categories: Traceability (8 points), Wages and Wellbeing (23 points), Commercial Practices (15 points), Raw Materials (20 points), Environmental Justice (42 points), and Governance (42 points). To this end, our scoring system looks for action and demonstrations of year-over-year progress. Very few points are allotted to goal-setting or transparency alone (with the notable exception of supply chain traceability, which is foundational).

Our scoring system goes up to 150 points, but acknowledging that not every indicator will always be relevant to every type of brand or retailer, we encourage companies of all sizes to view and use this criteria as a roadmap — to focus on the direction of travel, rather than on the narrow goal of getting as many points as possible. That said, given the stringency of our scoring, every additional point earned reflects significant positive impact and a definitive step in the right direction on a company’s accountability journey.

What’s more, as the knowledge and expertise of our team grows, and society’s understanding of sustainability evolves, we will continue to refine the way in which we assess companies. This year, for example, this is reflected in the overall lower average scores and in the removal of our Spotlight Issue negative points system. This will allow us to create a baseline and show clear progress in the year’s ahead. Remake remains committed to being transparent about our own internal process.

How Companies Are Selected

This year, the Remake Fashion Accountability Report assessed 58 of the world’s largest companies across fast fashion, luxury and big box retail. These are companies with an annual revenue of over USD $100 million and that, because of their size and purchasing power, have the most influence and responsibility to create the systemic changes that the fashion industry so critically needs in order to achieve its climate and social justice goals. A few companies were selected due to their relevance to our community and broader advocacy campaigns. Readers should note that Remake scores parent companies and conglomerates, and that the scores and insights presented in this report reflect all relevant subsidiary companies and brands.

Though we have not incorporated their scores in the aggregate data calculations this year, we also chose to highlight 15 small, sustainable businesses. In order to highlight a new crop of companies, we have included a different list of these small brands than were incorporated in last year’s report. These are companies chosen either because they are showing leadership in a certain area or our community at large regularly expresses interest in them.

Company Engagement

Every company included in this report received the opportunity to review its scoresheet ahead of publishing. This year, 17 companies (29%) engaged in this process. In many cases these companies were able to increase their final scores by identifying relevant disclosures that our research team may have overlooked or by putting additional information in the public domain.

Companies That Engaged In Our Process:

American Eagle Outfiitters
Boohoo Group
Burberry
Everlane
Fast Retailing
Gap Inc.
Inditex
J. Crew Inc.
Levi’s
Primark
Reformation
REI
Rothy’s
SHEIN
VF Corp
Victoria’s Secret
Walmart

Spotlight Issues

Each year, Remake raises up three salient Spotlight Issues that highlight urgent and breaking human and labor rights issues impacting garment workers in a given reporting year. The 2021 Spotlight Issues were: failures to #PayUp, opposition to California’s Garment Worker Protection Act and refusal to sign the International Accord

Last year, in addition to the 150 possible points companies could earn, companies lost points for failing to address relevant Spotlight Issues. This year, in order to create a baseline on which we can observe year-over-year progress, we have not directly scored the Spotlight Issues. Rather, we have tracked, and will continue to track, specific companies