It’s been two years since the fatal Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, an event which saw the lives of 1,100 factory workers tragically cut short and is now recorded as the second worst industrial accident of all time. The event sparked the collective conscience of consumers, retailers, investors and governments to know more about the people producing our clothes and how they are treated. The 2013 Australian Fashion Report, released in the wake of the accident, helped to shed some light on these questions by assessing the efforts of companies to protect workers in their supply chain from exploitation and the egregious practice of modern slavery, awarding each company grades from A to F.
This report updates and expands that research, adding an additional 18 companies representing over 91 brands. Of the companies researched in our last publication, a remarkable two thirds have improved their labour rights management systems, 100% now have codes of conduct (up from 85%) and the number of companies that actively engaged with the research process has increased from 54% to 94%.
Some companies that have made significant improvements include Kmart, which has released a complete list of its direct suppliers, a huge step towards transparency; The Cotton On Group, which has taken big steps forward to identify suppliers deeper in their supply chain; and H&M, Zara, Country Road and the Sussan Group which have demonstrated that they have made efforts towards paying better wages for workers overseas.
The Fairtrade companies once again are a stand out, with all their brands receiving A grades. Etiko still retains top honours, having traced its entire supply chain and taken action to ensure workers at the inputs and final stage of manufacturing levels of the supply chain are being paid a living wage. Etiko’s performance is only matched by the newcomer, Audrey Blue, who shares Etiko’s supply chain. The Cotton On Group takes honours for being the highest rated, non-Fairtrade Australian retailer, while H&M and Inditex, the two biggest fashion retailers in the world, are amongst the best rated international brands, receiving A-grades while also taking action to ensure workers at the final stage of production are being paid above the minimum wage. Only Hanesbrands received a higher grade, an A, but has yet to demonstrate any action on improving worker wages.