Tearfund's Covid Fashion Report Reveals A Commitment From Local Brands

By Terry Tibbs
Covid-19 disruption reveals local fashion brands most committed to vulnerable workers. Photo / Tearfund

During the first part of global lockdown earlier this year we assessed the myriad ways in which our local fashion industries would be impacted by the pandemic; from the changing face of Fashion Revolution Week in April through to the various risks that still needed to be addressed in the global fashion supply chain system.

Today marks the release of Tearfund's annual report - this year a special edition of its Ethical Fashion Report - to reflect the enormous disruption of Covid on the fashion industry.

The annual Tearfund Ethical Fashion Report is an important initiative that investigates and grades brands on how ethically they are manufacturing throughout their supply chain.

The Covid Fashion Report for 2020 is a departure from the norm for obvious reasons in a year of so many challenges, highlighting instead the wider story of an industry in crisis.

The report takes a closer look into how the workers that make our clothes are currently facing some of the greatest challenges to their livelihoods and lives. It also discusses how fashion companies and suppliers are under enormous pressure for their own survival too.

The report also reveals the actions companies have and haven’t taken to protect workers in their supply chains at this critical time with a new three-tier rating system.

Companies were also asked to make six key commitments that would have an immediate impact on workers.

These six commitments are:

1. Support workers' wages by honouring supplier commitments

2. Identify and support the workers at greater risk

3. Listen to the voices and experience of workers

4. Ensure worker' rights and safety are respected

5. Collaborate with others to protect vulnerable workers

6. Build back better for workers and the world

“The new Covid Fashion Report highlights the extent to which more than 400 well-known brands worked to address the immediate risks facing workers in global fashion supply chains as a result of the pandemic” explains Annie Newton-Jones, Tearfund’s corporate advocacy specialist.

Tearfund's Claire Gray and Annie Newton-Jones. Photo / Supplied
Tearfund's Claire Gray and Annie Newton-Jones. Photo / Supplied

“Covid-19 has had a massive impact on the fashion industry, disrupting entire supply chains, and exposing vulnerable workers to more risk than ever before."

The report identifies the companies that have made credible commitments and actions to support their workers and those that haven’t. Instead of A-F grades, it provides a simplified grading based on the delivery of those commitments.

“What was found in the report is that six out of 11 New Zealand companies assessed landed in the highest tier category, providing evidence of action against all six commitments. These companies were: Kathmandu, Macpac, Icebreaker, Glassons, Hallensteins, Freeset and AS Colour."

"Seventy per cent of New Zealand companies made some sort of immediate change throughout their supply chains. With 56 per cent of companies unable to show action across all six Covid Commitment areas, there is definitely still work to be done. However, Tearfund is positive that companies will take up the challenge to build back better and continue their ethical fashion journeys.”

While the report highlights some positive takeaways, it also exposes areas of the industry that still need vast improvement – a reality known well before Covid hit.

“Our research this year suggests this change is already happening, which is encouraging, but there is much work still to do,” says Tearfund education & advocacy manager, Claire Gray.

“Consumers will also have to be willing to pay the ‘true cost’ for their clothes to prevent exploitation in the supply chains.”

To accompany the report, Tearfund have also released The Covid Fashion Guide, empowering consumers to look beyond the grades given to companies and become conscious ethical fashion consumers. It contains stories, tips and ideas to help consumers take their next steps toward being more thoughtful and intentional shoppers.

Tearfund’s regular Ethical Fashion Report will return in 2021.

See the results of New Zealand's Covid Fashion Report audit below, and find more information, including downloadable versions of the Covid Fashion Report and the Covid Fashion Guide at Tearfund.org.nz/ethicalfashion

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