An assessment of 58 of the world’s largest companies across fast fashion, luxury and big box retail + sustainable alternatives.
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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.
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.
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?
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.
According to the Apparel Impact Institute (Aii), decarbonizing fashion could cost the fashion industry the better part of $1 trillion. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
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:
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 email@example.com. You may also download an accountability scoresheet and complete a self-assessment by following the instructions at the bottom of our Brand Directory.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
American Eagle Outfiitters
J. Crew Inc.
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’ responses and actions towards the three 2022 Spotlight asks: support for the International Accord, commitments to addressing pandemic-related wage theft in garment factories, and adherence to a single global standard in support of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. We have integrated these three current Spotlight Issues as contextual case studies throughout the report.
This year’s report showed low average scores across every section, but upon closer inspection what we see is that the bulk of the work towards environmental and social progress is taken up by a handful of companies. There is a huge range in scores. This is not surprising: Binding commitments and policy is necessary to correct existing industry incentives to exploit people and the planet and to level the playing field. Fortunately, fashion policy is now being pursued with vigor, and more binding agreements, such as the hugely successful International Accord and the newly proposed PayYourWorkers agreement, are emerging. We hope to see more industry support for these efforts.
Companies continue to make the most progress in areas within their direct control, like packaging or raw material selection, or in areas where they have faced years of organized public pressure campaigning. Visible progress made towards increasing traceability, animal welfare, and support for worker-driven policies like the FABRIC Act, or binding agreements like the Bangladesh Accord continue to underscore the importance of social movements in making change in fashion.
Fashion is taking climate change seriously in that more companies are publishing their full emissions and setting aggressive targets to reduce them at every level of their operations. However, to meet its climate goals will require the industry to simultaneously massively scale back production and invest heavily in the decarbonization of its manufacturing facilities across the Global South. Some companies have started to provide financing to their key suppliers to cut their emissions, but once again, this action is being undertaken by a handful of players and the funding is woefully insufficient. Thus, we are not yet seeing the scaling of these initiatives at the necessary rate. Additionally, no companies can demonstrate that they are working to curtail negative social externalities that might arise from the transition to a net-zero fashion industry (like job loss in certain regions).
A rapidly growing number of companies have added resale to their product offerings, which gives consumers a lower-impact way to shop. Companies are also increasingly offering both repair and upcycling services to their customers, which is more in line with true circularity, and there appears to be a broad concerted effort to eliminate packaging waste. These are all positive trends. However, as it stands, these circularity initiatives are, by and large, no more than greenwashing campaigns. No large company included in this report can demonstrate that its production of new garments is going down. Resale programs are thus not replacing linear production but simply existing in tandem with the fast fashion system. This means that the environmental impact of the fashion industry is actually going up, not down.
Fashion is an industry built upon poverty pay. This reality has not changed in the past year. What we have seen, however, is that some companies are taking increased responsibility for the wages of their garment workers, whether by increasing the number of unionized factories they work with, showing support for unionization of their retail workforce, or by –in at least one case– ensuring that some of their garment workers are paid in full for all regular hours, overtime and severance they are legally owed, which are crucial steps towards achieving livable wages. Garment workers are subject not only to poverty pay, but to rampant wage theft that lowers their wages further. In 2022, there were at least two successful and historic examples of wage theft resolutions within fashion supply chains.
Across all six categories, companies scored the worst in Commercial Practices (earning 7% of points on average), sliding back into old habits of canceling orders and paying lip service to being responsible buyers. We are certainly seeing more language and commitments around responsible exits and fair purchasing terms, but these are not yet backed by progress. There is one exception: Ganni’s adoption of the Buyer Code of Conduct. While Ganni is not included in the aggregate scores in this report (because the company does not meet the revenue threshold), its leadership should be applauded. We hope to see other companies follow in its footsteps.
Over two years after the racial reckoning that swept through fashion (and the world at large) in 2020, where is the industry on its commitment to addressing systemic racism and inequity? Fashion is becoming more diverse in highly visible ways, yet the C-suite and creative directors of large companies remain overwhelmingly white and male. In areas of employment where women and people of color make up the majority, like retail and entry-level corporate jobs, companies on the whole are still failing to pay workers a living wage or helping to advance their careers. In short, women of color, who despite being the backbone of the industry, continue to be excluded from fashion’s profits and decision-making roles at every level.
H&M Group 5
Fast Retailing (Uniqlo, Theory, Helmut Lang, J Brand) 4
Under Armour 4
Adidas Group 3
Victoria’s Secret & Co 1
Marks & Spencer 1
Columbia Sportswear 1
Ralph Lauren 1
River Island 1
Gap Inc. (GAP, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta) 1
Boohoo Group 1
VF Corp 1
Abercrombie & Fitch
American Eagle Outfitters
Edinburgh Woollen Mill
J. Crew Group (J. Crew, Madewell)
Savage X Fenty
The Children’s Place
This year, 27 companies (47%) published a sufficiently detailed list of at least their Tier 1 cut-and-sew garment factories, and 16 of these also published to the Tier 2 level: Adidas, ASOS, Columbia Sportswear, Everlane, Fast Retailing (UNIQLO, Theory, Helmut Lang, J Brand), H&M Group (H&M, COS, ARKET, & Other Stories), Levi Strauss & Co., Lululemon, Marks & Spencer, Missguided, Next, PUMA, REI, Target, VF Corporation (The North Face, Timberland, Supreme), and Victoria’s Secret & Co. This shows progress, as even a detailed Tier 1 supplier list was uncommon five years ago. To receive these points, the supplier list must be public and include the name and address of the facility, parent company, number of workers and product type, in line with The Transparency Pledge.
It is imperative that companies dive deeper. They must know the location of, environmental performance of, and working conditions within their processing facilities and raw material producers (Tier 3 and Tier 4, respectively), such as petrochemical refineries and farms. Tracing this far into the supply chain is more challenging, but several companies are accomplishing it. Reformation, for example, publishes 85% of its Tier 3 facilities, while Columbia Sportswear publishes approximately 80% of its Tier 3 processing facilities by business volume, and Victoria’s Secret & Co. has “begun the work” of tracing its spinning mills and other Tier 3 processing facilities. ASOS and PUMA have published supplier lists that fully disclose suppliers all the way down to Tier 3, to a detail sufficient to meet The Transparency Pledge. They are the two companies with the greatest level of traceability this year. No large company we scored has demonstrated full supply chain traceability down to the Tier 4 level.
At the other end of the scale, there are many companies that still do not provide adequate or any insight into where their products are made whatsoever. 31 companies (53%) failed to publish even a full Tier 1 supplier list at the sufficient level of detail. These companies are Abercrombie & Fitch Co.; AllBirds; American Eagle Outfitters; Burberry; Chanel; Desigual; Disney, Edinburgh Woollen Mill; Fashion Nova; Forever 21; Gap Inc. (GAP, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta); Hermes; Inditex (Zara, Bershka, Massimo Dutti); J. Crew Group, Inc. (J. Crew, Madewell); JCPenney; Kering; Kohl’s; LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Celine, Dior); Mothercare; MUJI; Primark; REI; Ross; Savage X Fenty; Sears; SHEIN; Target; The Children’s Place; TJX (Marshalls, TJMaxx); URBN Group (Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People) and Walmart.
Beyond traceability, however, companies should also be publishing detailed information about the lowest and average wages paid, the average hours worked, and the general labor standards throughout their supply chains. This year, H&M Group (H&M, COS, ARKET, & Other Stories) revealed the most about the working conditions in its Tier 1 factories, followed by Amazon, Fast Retailing (UNIQLO, Theory, Helmut Lang, J Brand) and Under Armour. These four companies published relatively detailed information about the numbers of health and safety data violations; working hour and overtime noncompliances; and incidents of discrimination, gender-based violation and harassment that occurred annually. Of course, transparency of this kind only underscores the need for action. In addition to publicly acknowledging that these endemic issues exist, companies must demonstrate that they are reducing workplace violations every year. The rest of the categories that follow focus on such action.
Fast Retailing (Uniqlo, Theory, Helmut Lang, J Brand) 7
Adidas Group 6
H&M Group 4
Under Armour 4
Ralph Lauren 3
VF Corp 3
Gap Inc. (GAP, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta) 3
Columbia Sportswear 2
Victoria’s Secret & Co 2
American Eagle Outfitters 2
The Children’s Place 2
Marks & Spencer 1
River Island 1
Boohoo Group 1
Abercrombie & Fitch 1
J. Crew Group (J. Crew, Madewell)
Savage X Fenty
Edinburgh Woollen Mill
Research presented by the Clean Clothes Campaign’s Fashion Checker shows that only 7% of the world’s garment workers earn a living wage. According to the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), garment workers in many Asian nations, such as Bangladesh, India and Cambodia, earn less than a third of what is necessary to meet basic needs and care for their families. There is no indication that this reality changed in the past year. Fashion is an industry built upon poverty pay, and while worker pay has gone up in some nations, it rarely keeps pace with the cost of living and inflation.
Remake tracks progress on living wages in a number of ways: companies must source from unionized factories, cultivate the right to organize, improve their purchasing practices and simply pay their factories enough to support the payment of a living wage. Companies are scored on living wages at all levels of business, including both direct employees, such as corporate and retail workers, and indirect employees, such as warehouse workers, photographers, models and cut-and-sew garment workers. To demonstrate progress, companies must show wages increasing year-over-year to all of these ends.
This year, four companies (7%) published some progress towards a living wage in their supply chains, in addition to disclosing the methodology they use to quantify a living wage: Patagonia, Ralph Lauren, Reformation and Hanesbrands Inc.
Of 58 companies, only one — Patagonia — demonstrated significant progress towards living wages paid to workers in its supply chain, although it lost points in this area as progress stalled during the pandemic. In 2020, Patagonia reported that, on average, 39% (12 out of 31) of its apparel assembly factories were paying workers a living wage — up from 35% the year before. The company noted that the pandemic has halted progress, however, and there is no data showing year-over-year progress since 2020. Likewise, Reformation makes a similar claim; that a percentage of the workers in its owned and operated factories earn a living wage. However, as the company now manufactures a majority of its products outside of the United States and outside of its company-owned facilities, it is unclear what workers at its third-party suppliers are earning, and thus, what percentage of its Tier 1 garment workers, overall, are earning a living wage.
There are three other companies that claimed progress towards living wages, but needed to be more transparent and detailed about this work: Hanesbrands Inc., PUMA and Ralph Lauren. Hanesbrands Inc., which owns many of its own factories, claimed to pay “all its workers a living wage,” but it is unclear if this applied to workers in third-party factories. PUMA also stated that “all [of its] employees are earning a living wage or above.” However, with the company’s starting pay for North American retail workers being $15-an-hour (which is below a living wage in most parts of the United States), it remains unclear if its living wage claim is inclusive of its store employees. Ralph Lauren, likewise, declared that “almost half of [its] strategic and key suppliers,” such as those located in Italy, are meeting living wage standards. While this is laudable, the company must show progress towards guaranteeing a living wage to workers regardless of what country they work in.
Calls for living wages in fashion are growing louder and more organized. Numerous civil society groups, such as Fashion Revolution and Clean Clothes Campaign, have banded together to ask for the European Commission to consider requiring companies to conduct due diligence on living wages. Their campaign, Good Clothes, Fair Pay, is on its way to collecting one million signatures.
Unionized workforces are key to increasing wages and bettering working conditions across all industries. Fashion is no exception. To make progress on this, companies must enable unionization across all levels of their operations and publish information on rates of unionization and collective bargaining agreement (CBA) uptake. Many fashion companies are now acknowledging the role of unions in improving working conditions and raising wages in their factories.
Six companies (10%) revealed rates of unionization and/or collective bargaining agreements in their cut-and-sew factories: Burberry, Everlane, H&M Group (H&M, COS, ARKET, & Other Stories), Inditex (Zara, Bershka, Massimo Dutti), PUMA and Reformation. As of 2021, 37% of H&M Group’s Tier 1 factories had trade union representation and more than a quarter (27%) had collective bargaining agreements. These numbers have also increased in the last few years. As of 2021, 37.2% of PUMA’s factories had “freely elected worker representation” — up from 26% in 2018. As of 2021, 64% of Everlane’s factories were covered by collective bargaining agreements. Over 85% of the facilities that Burberry sources from are covered by national or industrial collective bargaining agreements — up from 70% the year before. Some companies, like Hanesbrands Inc., claim to work with a “notable” number of unionized factories but should publish detailed data and standardized data to back up these assertions.
Spotlight Issues highlight and track how fashion companies react to urgent human and labor rights events that unfold during a given year.
The pandemic triggered unprecedented wage theft in fashion as the industry, which operates on razor-thin margins, pushed its economic pain onto the supply chain and its most vulnerable workers. Last year we deducted points from companies that failed to #PayUp the money they owed to factories for orders canceled or discounts imposed at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, we took a closer look at how, if at all, companies are ensuring that garment workers’ paychecks, safety, and human rights are not disrupted further, as the effects of the pandemic continue to unfold.
Extensive research by the Worker Rights Consortium, Clean Clothes Campaign and the Asia Floor Wage Alliance has revealed that garment workers have been robbed of billions of dollars in legally-owed wages since the onset of Covid-19 as garment factories have slashed pay, cut bonuses and even suspended and fired people without paying them their full wages or legally-owed severance.
Dozens of companies continue to be connected to pandemic-related wage theft, including many scored in this report. In April of 2021, the Worker Rights Consortium uncovered definitive evidence that the following companies are implicated in ongoing wage theft cases amounting to $39.8 million in total: Adidas, Amazon, Bestseller, Disney, Gap Inc. (GAP, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta), H&M Group (H&M, COS, ARKET, & Other Stories), Inditex (Zara, Bershka, Massimo Dutti), JCPenney, Kohl’s, Marks & Spencer, Next, Nike, PVH (Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger), Target, The Children’s Place, Under Armour, URBN Group (Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People), Victoria’s Secret & Co. and Walmart. This is likely just the tip of the iceberg.
Echoing the demands of the PayYourWorkers campaign, Remake calls on all apparel brands and retailers implicated in ongoing severance and wage theft cases to act swiftly to remedy them, whether by compelling the relevant suppliers to pay or by providing the funds themselves, and urges these companies to contribute to a severance guarantee fund.
In 2022, there were at least two successful and historic examples of wage theft resolutions within fashion supply chains. The first is the Karnataka #WorstWageTheft victory. In March of 2022, 21 of the largest garment manufacturers in Karnataka, India, that produced apparel for Gap Inc. (GAP, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta), H&M Group (H&M, COS, ARKET, & Other Stories) and Nike, Inc., among others, promised to pay an estimated $23.1 million they owed in arrears to nearly 200,000 garment workers. The second victory is the Victoria’s Secret Brilliant Alliance case:
In March of 2021, the sudden closure of the Brilliant Alliance garment factory in Thailand left more than 1,250 garment workers that sewed bras for Victoria’s Secret & Co., Lane Bryant and Torrid without $8.3 million in legally-owed severance. Many of the workers, some of whom had worked for the factory for over 15 years, suddenly found themselves unable to pay their rent or buy food for their families. The Thai government ruled that the factory needed to pay compensation to the workers within 30 days. A year later, however, the workers had still not received a penny.
Thus, labor rights advocates, including Remake, mobilized to support the factory’s union, Triumph International Union, in calling on Victoria’s Secret & Co. to step in and ensure workers received their full wages. Armed with data provided by the Worker Rights Consortium and Solidarity Center, Remake engaged Victoria’s Secret’s & Co. leadership in conversations behind the scenes. Simultaneously, our global community wrote hundreds of emails to Victoria’s Secret’s CEO, Martin Water, beseeching him to intervene, and fired off Tweets and Instagram posts in unity with protesting Thai workers. Remake urged the company to consider how its commitment to garment workers — most of whom are women — factored into its feminist rebrand.
At last, Victoria’s Secret executives showed leadership by providing a zero-interest loan to the factory owner, Clover Group, a Hong Kong based holding company. This loan ensured that the workers, in the end, got paid. Neither Torrid nor Sycamore Partners, the parent company of Lane Bryant, came to the table to contribute.
The Brilliant Alliance case is one of the largest single-factory instances of wage theft ever — and thus one of the biggest victories. The Brilliant Alliance wage theft victory is an example of citizens, workers and labor rights groups coming together and a company — Victoria’s Secret & Co. — stepping up to do what is right for its broader community of employees. As thousands of other workers in other countries continue to await wages and severance that is legally owed to them, it is necessary for companies to sign binding agreements to pay their workers (#PayYourWorkers) so that it is not the most vulnerable employees who bear all of the economic burden of future climate, pandemic and economic shocks.
Marks & Spencer 3
Victoria’s Secret & Co 2
H&M Group 2
Ralph Lauren 2
The Children’s Place 2
Fast Retailing (Uniqlo, Theory, Helmut Lang, J Brand) 1
Adidas Group 1
River Island 1
Under Armour 1
Gap Inc. (GAP, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta) 1
VF Corp 1
Abercrombie & Fitch
American Eagle Outfitters
Edinburgh Woollen Mill
J. Crew Group (J. Crew, Madewell)
Savage X Fenty
At the onset of Covid-19, dozens of major clothing companies canceled, in total, $40 billion in clothing orders already in production, unleashing a wave of layoffs without pay and a corresponding crisis of hunger and desperation. The order cancellations sparked the landmark #PayUp campaign, which secured back $22 billion to factories and workers–but it also put the need for fair and legally binding commercial practices in the limelight.
Fast forward nearly three years, and unethical commercial practices remain the norm in the fashion industry. Earlier this year, ASOS, Boohoo Group (Nasty Gal, Pretty Little Thing) and Missguided were accused of canceling orders at their factories in Leicester, in the UK. According to additional press reports, U.S. companies Kohl’s, Macy’s, Target and Walmart have also canceled billions in orders this past year. Suppliers and civil society organizations report that some companies are lengthening payment terms and putting orders on pause rather than canceling to avoid public backlash.
Commercial practices dictate workers rights. Responsible commercial practices come down to the prices that companies pay their suppliers, the deadlines they impose on factories, the consistency of the orders they place, and the way they disengage with their factories. In addition to directly affecting how much workers earn, commercial practices influence everything from the way that workers physically experience their jobs –in terms of rates of injuries and exhaustion– to the amount of time they get to spend with their families and friends outside of work. Recent exposés have reported that SHEIN’s warehouse workers walk roughly 34 miles a day, and that their garment workers toil for an average of 18 hours per day. Why? In no small part because the company’s small-batch, just-in-time business model dictates insufferable working conditions.
The fashion industry did not –with a few notable exceptions– learn lessons from 2020’s order cancellation crisis. Companies earned an average of 7% of points possible in the Commercial Practices category (the lowest average score of any category), and these points overwhelming came from companies committing to #PayUp in the early months of the pandemic, and only after enormous public backlash. In fact, of the 26 companies (45%) that honored contracts in full and on time during the early phase of the pandemic, none can demonstrate that they have changed purchase order contracts to legally commit to fair commercial practices moving forward.
Work around commercial practices remains in the voluntary phase, with a few companies paying lip service to responsible exits and order timelines. Four companies (7%) stated that they include responsible timeline considerations in their order planning to protect human rights and worker wellbeing: Hanesbrands Inc., MUJI, Patagonia and Ralph Lauren. No company, however, has integrated a responsible exit policy into its contracts. Adidas, for example, stated that it “provides a minimum of six months formal notice” before cutting ties with factories and seeks to “mitigate adverse impacts on the supplier and its workforce.” H&M Group (H&M, COS, ARKET, & Other Stories), likewise, “sets out a clear phase-out process… of between six months to 1.5 years.” But these commitments are not obligatory, and as we saw during the early phase of the pandemic, ethical commercial practices can go out the window when an economic crisis hits.
Likewise, Remake looks for companies to commit to pay their factories in advance and at high enough prices to cover both the payment of fair wages and the costs of social and environmental compliance. Some companies, including ASOS and H&M Group (H&M, COS, ARKET, & Other Stories), claimed to ring fence, or separate out, labor costs to ensure that the prices they set for suppliers are not putting downward pressure on wages. Other companies were even more vague. Boohoo Group (Nasty Gal, Pretty Little Thing) declared that it “understand[s] what a fair price is for garments and commit[s] to paying this.” Fast Retailing (UNIQLO, Theory, Helmut Lang, J Brand) surveys its suppliers to ask if “they believe [the company is] paying a fair price.” Hanesbrands Inc. aims to “include wages as itemized costs in purchasing prices.” None of these statements outline a clear plan of action to ensure the payment of fair prices.
Unsurprisingly, then, no company can demonstrate that its purchasing practices ensure suppliers’ abilities to guarantee and support fair wages or social and environmental sustainability.
Fair prices, fair payment terms, humane production speeds and mutually agreed upon exit strategies are the backbone of fair commercial practices, and the only way forward.
It is critical that fashion companies not only commit to fair commercial practices, but actually enshrine them into their purchase order contracts, where they become legally enforceable, and publish these contract terms in the public domain. (This is why Remake tracks company progress towards adopting responsible contract terms.)
Thankfully, this pioneering work has already been done for companies by a working group of the American Bar Association, which has published model contract clauses and a Responsible Purchasing Code of Conduct, otherwise known as the Buyer Code of Conduct. Companies can access the Model Contract Clauses Toolkit here. Ganni, highlighted below, is the first company that we are aware of to adhere to the Buyer Code of Conduct. Next year, we hope to see a wave of companies take this step.
In a precedent-setting move, Danish fashion company Ganni disclosed this year that it has strengthened its commercial practices by adopting responsible purchasing practices into its purchase order contracts. For decades, apparel companies have imposed supplier codes of conduct onto their factories without acknowledging that their own commercial practices — such as the prices they pay and the swift changes in orders they make — actually affect the ability of factories to meet these ethical standards. By introducing a Buyer Code of Conduct, however, companies recognize that they have an equal role to play in upholding standards of social and environmental responsibility within their supplier factories.
Ganni writes, “Throughout 2021, we took further steps to ensure more responsible purchasing practices. It began with an internal review of our sourcing strategy and policies that accompany it, which included a review of contracts and codes of conduct, supplier screening, evaluation and responsible partnership programmes.” The outcome of this work, according to Ganni, is that it “strengthened [the company’s] Mutual Business Agreement with the underlying principles of the Responsible Purchasing Code of Conduct, published by the American Bar Association.” To make further progress, the company’s new contract terms should be publicly disclosed.
H&M Group 5
Marks & Spencer 5
J. Crew Group 5
Ralph Lauren 4
VF Corp 4
Fast Retailing 4
Adidas Group 3
Columbia Sportswear 3
River Island 3
Forever 21 2
Gap Inc. (GAP, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta) 2
Boohoo Group 2
Victoria’s Secret & Co 1
American Eagle Outfitters 1
Abercrombie & Fitch
Edinburgh Woollen Mill
Savage X Fenty
The Children’s Place
There is no perfectly “green” material, and Remake’s scoring system reflects that every single fiber and textile has environmental impacts and tradeoffs. What’s more, a company’s business model, the efficiency and technology of the factories it uses, and how it treats its raw material suppliers, the animals in its supply chain, and the communities that produce its materials are all vitally important to creating a more sustainable industry.
Companies can score up to 20 points in the Raw Materials category, and Remake considers how companies integrate sustainability, circularity, animal welfare and human rights into those choices. Materials are evaluated in three separate tranches: biogenic materials (fibers like cotton, silk, linen, rayon, and wool, which come from life forms), non-biogenic materials (synthetic materials such as those derived from crude oil) and recycled synthetic materials. We also look at the animal welfare and human rights of companies’ raw material suppliers.
Companies must strive for a net positive impact on the environment, meaning sourcing materials in a way that helps to protect biodiversity, restore and regenerate land and ecosystems, or that avoids more land conversion to agriculture. They can do this by demonstrating that they are sourcing from or investing in more regenerative farms, that their usage of recycled biogenic or natural materials (like cashmere or cotton) is increasing, or that their tree-based fibers come from sustainably managed forests.