Transparency’s transformative act: the power of data
The launch of the annual Fashion Transparency Index reminds us why public disclosure of information remains one of our most effective levers for change.
Transparency is one of the most important means for improving accountability across industries. Public disclosure of information allows civil society and governments to hold businesses to account and lay the groundwork for systemic change.
Fashion Revolution Week marks the anniversary of the Rana Plaza Tragedy, this year on the seventh anniversary, we highlight three partners working to promote transparency in the fashion industry.
Fashion Transparency Index shows slow but steady progress
The annual Fashion Transparency Index is a key indicator of the progress being made by 250 of the world’s biggest brands and retailers in disclosing information about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impacts.
The fifth edition – launched by Fashion Revolution this week – reveals that high street brands are leading the way on transparency while big fashion brands, including luxury names, are generally less forthcoming.
The overall industry picture is one of slow but steady progress. This is the first year since the Fashion Transparency Index launched that brands achieved a score of 70% or higher. H&M scored highest with 73%, followed by C&A with 70% and Adidas and Reebok tied with 69%. Though others scored as low as 2%, the average score across the 250 brands was 23% – up 2% on last year.
Across the board, 40% of brands are publishing a list of their first tier manufacturers, 24% are publishing some of their processing facilities, and only 7% are sharing information on raw material suppliers – all of these scores are up 5% on 2019.
Transparency is on the rise also on the regional level
Later this year will see the release of the third Brazil Transparency Index, a spin-off that looks at the transparency credentials of more than 30 local brands and retailers in the Brazil fashion industry. The second index was already showing positive advancements. This regional view ensures local brands in Brazil, the fourth-largest fashion producer in the world, also recognise the importance of supply chain transparency. It provides important insights, given the high volume of local manufacturing in the country.
Promoting collaboration through the Open Apparel Registry
Transparency enables stakeholders to work together to call for improved conditions at factory level and the Open Apparel Registry (OAR) is making this possible through an opensource, public, sortable map of all apparel factories globally.
At its one-year anniversary in March, OAR had recorded more than 30,000 facilities across 98 different countries in its tool, with contributions from 158 different organisations.
OAR is now a go-to source for identifying apparel factories and their affiliations and gives workers, brands, NGOs and industry initiatives the opportunity to identify where they share a common interest in a factory and can collaborate together for change.
Mapped in Bangladesh lifts the lid on local industry
Efforts towards greater transparency are being backed at the country level too, and with support from industry and government. Mapped in Bangladesh (MIB) is undertaking the mammoth task of digitally mapping the entire ready-made garment (RMG) sector in Bangladesh, where a lack of data has traditionally made it difficult for stakeholders to act together to protect workers.
MIB launched its beta version in February last year, with the ultimate aim of having an industry-wide database that includes granular detail on factory name, address, location, registration status, production or building type, worker numbers, exporting countries, customers, certifications and more.
Transparency as a catalyst
When workers, governments, businesses and consumers know the true social and environmental cost of their decisions, they can start making better choices. Transparency helps us change the prevailing narrative.
The global finance system is one area that is infamously complex and opaque and initiatives that encourage transparency, such as the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), play a critical role in enabling governments and citizens to hold business to account. Research from Frank Bold’s Alliance for Corporate Transparency, does the same by highlighting key gaps in corporate reporting practices that will empower policy makers ahead of deliberations.
With greater transparency, we enable accountability and that in turn starts to mold a system where people and the planet are valued, and the productive power of industry can be harnessed for good.