Overview of the 2023 Fashion Transparency Index

education environmental impacts leadership must-know social impacts sustainability report sustainable fashion Jul 28, 2023

Fashion Revolution is back again with their 2023 Fashion Transparency Index. While some brands have made progress, evidence is stronger than ever that true traceability and transparency are a long way away. This doesn’t have to be the case though - learning from these brands’ shortcomings can help our own organizations strategize for the coming years.

What’s more, the responsibility for transparency can no longer fall solely on the sustainability department or the head of sustainability. There are too many issues to consider that touch departments across an organization - compliance, finance, executive leadership, and many other departments are now responsible for developing stronger transparency within a given organization. 

That said, the 2023 Fashion Transparency Index (FTI) is more robust than ever before. As we dive into the report, you will notice new indicators focused on workers’ wages and emissions reduction, as well as a new topic on degrowth. As the conversation around transparency becomes more nuanced, we can expect the FTI and other globally recognized reports to become richer and more critical.

At a high level, some of the key findings found in the report are:

  • Only 2 brands out of 250 scored 80% or above
  • The average score of the world’s largest fashion brands showed little improvement at 26% 
  • A luxury brand was one of the highest-rated brands for the first time ever
  • 52% of major brands scored provided supplier lists for Tier 1
  • Only 12% of brands publish a responsible purchasing code of conduct
  • Most major fashion brands scored did not release data on annual production volumes
  • Only 12% of major brands published a time-bound commitment to zero-deforestation
  • 94% of brands don’t disclose what fuel is used to manufacture clothes across the production process
  • 99% of brands did not provide data on the number of workers throughout all phases of production being paid a living wage
  • Only 1% of brands scored disclosed the number of collective bargaining agreements providing wages higher than minimum wage
  • 7% of major fashion brands provide data on supplier wastewater test results
  • Only 29% of brands disclose a breakdown of fibers sourced annually

As is the case with every Transparency Index, brands were given the opportunity to participate and provide feedback to Fashion Revolution researchers. Of the 250 brands scored, 61% completed a questionnaire, 38% did not respond, and 1% declined the opportunity to participate. P.S. - We’ve heard of brands not even realizing they were reached out to (emails & inquiries lost in [email protected] inboxes).

How did the brands score overall? Gucci and OVS were the two highest-scoring brands in the whole report. There were countless others who fell somewhere in the middle, but many more who scored in the bottom rung. Some of the lowest-scoring brands include Fashion Nova, Tom Ford, and Savage X Fenty. Fashion Revolution also scored each brand across the five different sections of the FTI - Policy & Commitments (53%), Governance (36%), Traceability (23%), Know, Show, & Fix (25%), and Spotlight Issues (18%).

This year’s Spotlight Issue topics (which evolve and/or change each year) include:

  • Decent work
  • Gender & racial equality
  • Sustainable sourcing & materials
  • Overconsumption, waste & circularity 
  • Water & chemicals
  • Climate change & biodiversity

Overall, the scores through each of these sections were abysmal, except for sustainable sourcing and materials. What this highlights is that brands for too long have put all of their eggs into one sustainability basket - just using preferred materials isn’t enough to drive change throughout the industry. As you go through the FTI, you’ll see viewpoints from a number of experts in the fashion industry highlighting issues like modern slavery, workers living below the poverty line, recycling fallacies, and many more topics that have been pushed to the background for too long.

The 2023 FTI concludes with action points for all stakeholders in the fashion industry (btw, if you’ve bought, worn, sold, made, or designed a piece of apparel or footwear, that’s you!). From citizens to brands, and everyone in between, there are things we can all do to accelerate change. Take note - these are solid:

  • Citizens - support legislation that would regulate social and environmental impacts and put pressure on brands to create more transparency throughout the entire organization
  • Brands - trace your entire supply chain as quickly as possible and share that information with stakeholders or upload your data to Open Supply Hub, plus work cross-functionally to accelerate change and support legislation around the world to protect workers and the environment from an unjust system
  • Policymakers - create and support legislation that would protect garment workers and the environment, and work with experts or stakeholders in the fashion industry to create a holistic, balanced approach to driving change
  • Investors - drive board-level accountability for human and environmental impacts, which may include bringing outside perspectives or experts to help create a new system or structure
  • Civil society - question claims made by brands that are unverified and continue to do research on advancements in the fashion industry, plus use your platform to call for change industry-wide

We thoroughly enjoyed going through this year's FTI and we can honestly say we learned a thing or two! The FTI is such a robust report, we couldn't fit all the details in this blog post. We highly encourage you to go through the report and pull out some data points that stood out to you, or find ways to implement their suggestions into your work and personal life.

Happy Friday, see you next week!  

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