Times are changing in the apparel industry.  With consumers becoming increasingly aware of how and on what they spend their money and the media focusing on issues like the garment workers’ strike in Bangladesh, it is becoming crucial for companies to understand who is making their products, and the conditions in which they are manufactured.

Not For Sale’s Apparel Industry Trends – From Farm to Factory Report (sponsored by the US Department of Trade), which was released in November last year, did not paint a rosy picture of the industry.   Not For Sale surveyed and evaluated 300 brands in four areas:  policies; traceability & transparency; monitoring & training (with a specific focus on child and forced labor); and workers’ rights (minimum wages and workers’ wellbeing).  The Report graded each of the companies from A to F in each of the areas, and then gave the brand a final score.  Top of the class, with an A grade, included Inditex (Zara’s parent company), Maggie’s Organics, Hanes, and Timberland.

With the increased focus on the issues raised in the Report, brands are taking action.  As CovBrands reported in November, Tesco is setting up management programs to educated workers in Bangladesh.  The latest attempt to make the fashion industry more transparent and sustainable comes from H&M.  It has taken the next step by publishing a list of its factory suppliers worldwide on its website in the hope that this will incentivize their suppliers to take ownership over their sustainability and recognize the progress they make.  H&M hope that more companies will follow suit.

No doubt, we’ll see an increase in activity in corporate social responsibility programs and brands coming up with creative ways to increase transparency and sustainability in the fashion industry in the very near future.  CovBrands will be watching this space.