Making fashion transparent

Final Assignment Introduction: Case study Transparency
Making fashion transparent – Assessing Fashion Transparency Index scores

The journeys made by our clothes remain largely unseen. They may have started life in a field and then travelled across a vast network, in many countries, through the hands of hundreds of workers, working for dozens of different companies, before reaching our wardrobes. (Fashion Transparency Index – FTI 2020, p.3)

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Fashion supply chains are long and complex. The vast majority of today’s fashion brands do not own their manufacturing facilities, making it seem difficult to monitor or control working conditions throughout the supply chain. It can also be a convenient excuse for brands to evade responsibility for how their products are made. Some brands may work with thousands of factories at any given time – and that is just the facilities that cut, sew and assemble our garments. There are also facilities down the chain that dye, weave and finish materials and farms that grow fibres too. During the manufacturing process clothes are touched by a great many pairs of hands before they reach the rails or shelves of the shop floor. A brand might place an order with one supplier, who carves up the order and sub-contracts the work to other factories. This happens regularly across the industry and presents a great challenge for brands themselves as well as the people working in the supply chain who become invisible in this process.

The complexity and fragmentation of the fashion supply chain was brought into question after the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh (2013), which killed 1134 workers garment workers. Famous major fashion brands could not determine whether they were sourcing from that particular factory despite their clothing labels being found in the rubble. However, brands dismissed tragedy allegations, transferring responsibility to their contractors. Moreover, brands claim that they did not track their supply chains meaning that they are not responsible for their supplier actions, alongside with their effects.

Tragedies like Rana Plaza are eminently preventable, but will continue to happen until brands, and every other stakeholder in the fashion supply chain, takes responsibility for their actions and impacts. It is impossible for brands to make sure human rights are respected and that environmental practices are sound without knowing where their products are made, who is making them and under what conditions. Therefore, supply chain transparency is the first step towards making necessary change in the sustainable apparel production system.

“Transparency encourages scrutiny, vigilance and accountability. It’s like opening one’s front door and allowing others to look inside; not yet the full picture, but an important step towards openness and public disclosure. And of course, the more doors are open, the more the picture becomes clearer, the better we can understand and ameliorate supply chain workers’ lives and the environment.” (FTI 2020, p.3).

Fashion Transparency Index 2020 data
(Links to an external site.)

The Fashion Transparency Index, published by non-profit organization Fashion Revolution
(Links to an external site.)
reports and ranks about 250 fashion brands’ business information within five key sustainability areas: policy and commitment; governance; traceability; know, show, fix; spotlight issues. Five areas defined by are Index are following: Policy and commitment (provides answers to the following questions: What are the brand’s social and environmental policies? How is the brand putting its policies into practice? How does the brand decide which issues to prioritise? What are the brand’s future goals for improving its impacts? ). Governance: (provides answers to the following questions: Who in the brand is responsible for the brand’s social and environmental impacts? How can they be contacted? How does the brand incorporate human rights and environmental issues into its buying and sourcing practices? ).Traceability (provides answers to the following questions: Does the brand publish a list of its suppliers, from manufacturing to raw material level? If so, how much detail do they share? ). Know, show, fix (provides answers to the following questions: How does the brand assess the implementation of its supplier policies? How does the brand fix problems when found in its supplier facilities? Does the brand report assessment findings? How can workers report grievances?). Spotlight issues (provides answers to the following questions: What is the brand doing to ensure workers are being paid a living wage? What is the brand doing to support workers’ Freedom of Association? What is the brand doing to reduce consumption of resources?).

In this case study, students are to select one brand from FTI 2020 and conduct an analysis of index scores within five key sustainability areas listed above (Policy and commitment, governance, traceability, know, show, fix and spotlight issues).

Using ratings and FTI 2020 full material
(Links to an external site.)
, students should attempt to provide answers on the following questions:

To compare the scores in the table and identify the strongest and the weakest areas for the selected brand.
Based on their understanding of sustainability issues, the student should address what area(s) selected brand needs to improve in order to become more transparent and socially responsible.
Provide recommendations as to how a particular brand might improve its transparency score.
Students are to describe why transparency is a prerequisite for sustainable and responsible business communication.

Students are required to provide 1-page case study summary that should reflect the evaluation of the problem (For the selected brand here you are expected to summarize scores in each area as provided by Index, and evaluate overall transparency score), and 1 page (single space) answer for each of the additional questions (as we have 4 questions to answer you are expected to provide 4 pages evaluation). At minimum, you need to created project on 5 pages (1-page summary and 4 pages to answer questions). Please provide concise and brand-specific answers, using the information provided in FTI 2020 material. Your answers should be clear, thorough, and carefully written.

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