Baptist World Aid’s 2021 Ethical Fashion Report finds lingering gaps in wages, sustainability.
Fashion companies are investing more than ever in ethical sourcing, but their efforts still aren’t reaching garment workers, according to the 2021 Ethical Fashion Report launched by Baptist World Aid Australia this month.
The Christian development organisation has released its latest fashion scorecard for close to 100 Australian fashion companies representing 428 brands, including its first new A+ to F grades in over two years.
Twenty companies received an A+ or A, 55 received a B or C and 23 received a D or F this year.
“Consumers have influenced hugely positive progress in encouraging the fashion industry to become more ethical and sustainable,” said Peter Keegan, Baptist World Aid’s Director of Advocacy. “But these scores show us we’re not there yet.”
Forty percent of companies improved their score in 2021 compared to 2019, with positive shifts in supply chain tracing and transparency and use of more sustainable fabrics.
Because Baptist World Aid is committed to caring for the world’s most vulnerable, this year’s report is troubling due to the industry’s lack of progress in initiatives to empower garment workers. The average company scored a D for their actions on wage improvement, worker unions and complaints processes.
The number of companies paying some workers in their supply chain a living wage dropped from 20 percent in 2019 to 15 per cent in 2021, a decline attributed to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. Consequently, garment workers in countries where Baptist World Aid works like Bangladesh lost more than US$16 billion dollars in wages.
In addition to the pandemic, the report reflects the industry’s need to reduce its impact on climate change. Though the number of companies with a commitment to reduce emissions has risen by 10 percent since 2019, the total with a climate strategy is still less than half of those assessed in 2021.
Also new this year is an explanation of how a company’s score out of 100 aligns to the familiar A+ to F grades, with the average company scoring 33.6. Keegan says this shows that although the industry is moving in the right direction, it still has a long way to go.
“We want to encourage people to continue to choose more ethical brands to buy from,” he said. “And to keep encouraging their favourite brands to do better for garment workers.”