This summer there’s been a monumental response to the Black Lives Matter movement. None of the issues raised by #BLM are new to black people, but we are finally seeing a considerable number of non-black citizens and corporations saying that they are ready and willing to do the work to be anti-racist. But are they? A few months have passed since George Floyd’s death, and we haven’t yet observed many of the black squares on social media and commitments to “listen & learn” turning into any tangible change in the working lives of black people. In fact, over the past few months, there have been few lasting commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the fashion industry as a whole. Further, we have seen many of the same brands that professed anti-racist attitudes called out for their actively racist practices against black employees.
In June of this year, Leslieann Elle Santiago, a former assistant manager at a brand praised for its sustainability efforts, Reformation, spoke up about the company’s performative activism by detailing the “deeply traumatic” experiences she had there as a person of color. Discrimination prevented her and other black and POC workers from receiving the same pay, opportunities, and treatment as their white colleagues.
View this post on Instagram
Today and everyday my prayers are with the family of George Floyd and all victims of police brutality and racism. I wanted to wait until after the memorial to speak on this. I am addressing this issue as a stance again companies who play a role in the systems that fail our black and brown brothers and sisters daily. This is only one example of a very large and in charge problem. Racism and prejudice is prevalent in many areas of our world. We have been made to believe we have to play along to the rules of their game in order to survive, in order to maintain our livelihood. But this is one of the countless lies they have manipulated us into believing. We all deserve better than what we have been given and it is only up to us to refuse anything less than the respect, recognition and retribution we are owed. I stand for every one of my black and brown brothers and sisters who have been denied their right to prosperity. I am proud to be apart of this fight. *this is a response to a head at Ref HQ dming me to have a conversation on my experience – see last slide @reformation @yaya_aflalo @haliborenstein #blacklivesmatter #performativeactivism #accountability
Reformation admitted its shortcomings in an Instagram post and promised to make changes — including broadly establishing a Diversity and Inclusion Board. However, they have not provided details with actionable targets to accompany the creation of the Board. With no details, how can we guarantee that changes will be made? After all, performative activism and greenwashing are not new in fashion.
At Remake, we believe that brands need to be transparent about the well-being of workers in their supply chain.
The people who make our clothes are often black and brown women in places we have learned to classify as far away and disparate — but many BIPOC who are underpaid and overworked live and work alongside us every day.
We want to know, with certainty, that companies are fully integrating Diversity, Equity and Inclusion into their business models and not just their social media strategy. To do this, we knew it was time to update our own sustainable brands criteria to reflect the expectation that all businesses should guarantee fair wages and treatment for people of color throughout their entire supply chains — from the workers who gather raw materials and those who make our clothes in factories to the staff in retail stores and executives running corporate offices.
Diversity and inclusion are crucial components in maintaining an ethical business.
What our criteria previously covered
Our Seal of Approval has always required brands to encompass both the social and environmental sectors of sustainability. At Remake, sustainability means fully considering each of the 5 sections included in our Seal of Approval criteria:
1) Transparency + Traceability
2) Maker Well-being
3) Environmental Sustainability
4) Sustainable Raw Materials
In recent months, we’ve added to and updated our Leadership criteria to: Leadership, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Diversity: the inclusion of individuals representing more than one background.
Equity: being fair and just.
Inclusion: including and integrating all people in activities, organizations, and political processes — especially those who have suffered discrimination.
When brands look at their supply chains, they need to be able to account for how their business practices impact workers at every stage. For sustainability to be effective, it needs to be fully inclusive of social justice. For businesses, this means hiring black people, paying them fairly, and giving them the opportunities they deserve beyond junior and support positions.
That is what we’re now asking
Our updated Leadership, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion section determines if the company is a true partner in the ethical fashion movement by evaluating the disclosure, or lack of, regarding practices that support fair wages and the corporate welfare of BIPOC employees.
- Does the company demonstrate a commitment to intersectional environmental sustainability (through environmental sustainability policies, goals, collections, etc.)?
- Is senior leadership heterogeneous with POC making up a reasonable % of the Board/C-Suite where reasonable is a reflection of the makeup of where the company HQ is based (in the US at least 20%)?
- Does the company hire POC at all levels of work, including retail storefronts, corporate offices, distribution centers and warehouses?
- Does the company have efforts to encourage an inclusive workplace and prevent discriminatory practices?
To score well in this area, companies need to understand that diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial components in maintaining an ethical business. These added questions to our criteria will help us delve deeper into what brands are actually disclosing.
If your company posted a black square in early June, have they also shared about diversity numbers or pay gaps at the company?
Do you copy and paste a general equal employment opportunity statement to job postings, or do you have documented and measured targets for inclusive hiring which are disclosed to all employees?
Are qualified workers passed over due to perceived judgements, or are they paid fairly and given promotions as required?
These are not easy issues to work through, but we do expect brands to consider these factors and treat them as core parts of business strategy. It is currently uncommon to find answers to any of the above questions in a brand’s public disclosures, and we know that many employees don’t have access to internal diversity, equity, or inclusion information.
(We also need to see diversity, equity, and inclusion better reflected in the sustainability field itself, where many nonprofit organizations and consultancies would fail these questions.)
We are all about sharing information so that you can support brands who are getting it right! That is why we are releasing our first transparency report this Fall, featuring data we have collected from 40 brands in the fashion industry. Our report uses public information to evaluate how much of a fashion brand’s production process is shared in the public domain with an emphasis on what YOU as a consumer can learn about a brand to make an informed purchase (if you need to buy). Each score reflects how much information you would be able to find on your own when doing research before buying a product. Stay tuned!
Learn more about Remake’s Seal of Approval process in the webinar above.