According to the 2017 Ethical Fashion Report, 106 apparel companies that sell their products in Australia, consisting of 330 brands, were graded from A to F. As per the Baptist World Aid annual report card, some brands such as Cotton On Group and Kmart have made progress but, notably, nearly three-quarters of the companies that scored a D+ or worse have their headquarters in Australia.
What’s alarming is that only 3 of the 15 brands that scored an A or higher had its headquarters in Australia, and they were niche ethical producers. “If Australia needs to stay competitive in the ethical backing space, then they need to lift their game,” said Gershon Nimbalker, Spokesman, Baptist World Aid. Multinationals like Patagonia and Zara were acclaimed for their practices with both scoring an A grade.
The research showed steady progress towards paying workers a living wage to cover the basics such as food, water and clothing. While only 11% of companies invested towards better wages in 2013, the 2017 report showed a significant 42% rise. It is worth noting that Mighty Good Undies was the only company that could prove that it paid a living wage to all its workers. The report also highlighted that more than three-quarters of the companies, strangely, traced their manufacturing suppliers in the final stage of supply. “If companies don’t know or don’t care who their suppliers are, there is virtually no way for them to ensure that workers’ rights are being upheld throughout their supply chains,” averred Nimbalker.
Several companies, such as Big W, Cotton On Group, Esprit, Jeanswest and RM Williams, have started publishing full supplier lists. 26% of businesses now make that information available, up from 16 per cent in 2016.