The T in EMPATHY: Transparency

The T in EMPATHY: Transparency

In this new article series, we wanted to dive right into our current rationale around each of our EMPATHY values to provide you with more transparency but also helpful information that you can take with you on your next purchase.

This is also a great exercise for Ethi as we’ll be able to set a baseline to continue to improve our knowledge and criteria for each value as we grow. As with sustainable fashion in general, we are a work-in-progress so any feedback will really help!

This week we look at our Transparency value, which we define as brands that share information about their process of production (who, what, where, and price).

Transparency is a massive issue in fashion and with consumers today wanting to know more about how their clothes are being made, this area has the ability to transform the industry.

Since the Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013, and with the subsequent rise of Fashion Revolution and it’s incredibly successful ‘Who made my clothes’ campaign, transparency has become a much greater topic for brands and consumers alike.

The current situation
  • Fashion Revolution’s Fashion Transparency Index 2017, a review and ranking of 100 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact.
  • The average score for all 100 brands was 49 out of 250.
  • 32 of 100 brands are publishing supplier lists at the first tier, where clothes are typically cut, sewn, and trimmed.
  • 14 of 100 brands are publishing their processing facilities where clothes are dyed, printed, and finished.
  • 0 brands are publishing details about their raw material suppliers.

Whilst the Fashion Transparency Index is one source of transparency, and it also looks at the largest brands, this should provide a sufficient proxy to the state of transparency in the industry.

How does this affect YOU?
  • You gain knowledge of why and how the price of clothing is where it is, and can make more informed purchasing decisions.
  • Being able to understand your clothing better in terms of its journey to you actually helps you form a better appreciation of the value of your purchase.
  • Ultimately, you get superior clothing that is made by happier people, cleaner materials, and by brands that are contributing positively back to your environment.
What is fashion doing to improve transparency

Viva la Fashion Revolution!

The Fashion Revolution movement has been profound. During Fashion Revolution Week in 2016, #whomademyclothes reached 129 million people through 70,000 posts on social media. They are lifting standards of transparency with brands, with 32 of 100 brands publishing supplier lists in 2017 compared to only 5 out of 40 in 2016.

Listening to modern consumer wants

Several brands have emerged as fashion/apparel powerhouses built on making amazing products but also famous for their incredible transparency. Patagonia, for example, essentially publishes its policies, fabrics used (the down that they use is 100% traceable), are Fair Trade Certified, and has an interactive world map detailing their supply chain.

Reformation have even built their own environmental footprint scale called the RefScale, which adds up the pounds of carbon dioxide emitted, gallons of water used, and pounds of waste generated. This follows their entire product lifecycle.

Reformation RefScale

The commercial success of these two examples indicate that brands can gain a competitive advantage by sharing more information about how their products are made.

What does it mean for a brand to qualify for our ‘Transparency’ value?

Brands need to share as much information as possible in terms of the materials they use, who and where the products are produced, with brownie points on additional information such as pricing and carbon footprint. We also look for brands that are actively improving visibility and information on their supply chain.   

Seeker x Retriever - Brand example at Ethi

Seeker x Retriever are a designer label that is both from Australia and Thailand - designed in Sydney, all of their garments are crafted by artisanal hands in Northern Thailand, where the creative director’s mother originated.  

Back in April, they wrote a blog detailing their pricing structure, breaking down the costs for the materials, processing, production including providing fair labour conditions. You can read their blog here.

You can find Seeker x Retriever pieces here on Ethi. 

So, what can we do?
  1. It can be as simple as asking the brand where and who made their clothes if the information is not available. Even if the brand is unsure, this may create awareness for an area of the supply chain they should have an answer for.
  2. Support organisations such as Fashion Revolution that are putting in mountains of work to build transparency and accountability across the entire industry.
  3. Support and buy from brands that can tell you information about their supply chain.
  4. Head onto our Transparency values products page on Ethi to browse through clothing that have been made with transparency.

A Final Note: 

Ultimately, we want to encourage people to buy sustainable because of its quality, its aesthetics, accessibility, and affordability - not because they have been guilt-tripped toward buying sustainable. We honestly hope that the words “sustainable” or “ethical” will be dropped in the future because that will be the new norm and fashion will simply be “fashion”.


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