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

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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