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Tearfund Ethical Fashion Report Celebrates Excellent Progress By NZ Companies

The 2021 Ethical Fashion Report launched today by Tearfund New Zealand is celebrating excellent progressmadeby New Zealand companiesover the past two years, but there is still vast room for improvement to reduce exploitation and environmental impacts in the fashion industry.

Out of 98 companies surveyed,five New Zealand companiesrankedin the top 20. Tearfund Education and Advocacy Manager, Claire Gray, says seeing four New Zealand companies receive an A grade, and one of them receiving an A+, shows that change is possible if companies are committed and consumers use their spending power to insist on change.Unfortunately, one New Zealand company received an F grade again after receiving one in 2019.

The Report reveals that overall,the fashion industry is improving with 94% of companies having a code of conduct in place that sets the standards for suppliers to adhere to,but only 4% of companies carry this effort through to making meaningful changes for workers by paying a living wage.

“It’s very encouraging to see the great progress made by New Zealand companies and the improvementsbythe wider industry on some of the basic practices to protect workers, but the systemic change necessary to reduce worker exploitation and reduce environmental impacts in the industry is lagging.

Our research shows that complex problems like forced and childlabourare not being resolved and companies are not taking responsibility for the environmental damage causedby the process of making their products.”

Tearfund’s Ethical Fashion Report assessedsome of the world’stop fashion brands on the measures taken to protect workers in their supply chain and reduce environmental impact. Brands are assessed on five themes around workers protection and environmental management and are awarded a grade from A+ to F based on how they are performing compared to the industry average.

Key findings of the 2021 Report include:

· One New Zealand company,Joyya, ranked in the top four companies overall with an A+

· Macpacwas one of the most improved companies increasing its grade more than 12%

· ASColour,HallensteinsGlassons, Kathmandu andMacpacall received A grades

· The lowest graded New Zealand company was Farmers with an Fgrade.

· New Zealand companies average score was higher than the industry average of 33.6%

· Only 15% ofcompanies researched in 2021 could demonstrate paying a living wage in some of the factories.

Environmental impacts

· The Fashion Industry contributes up to 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions; 70% of which stem from supply chain activities.

· It is the second-largest polluter on Earth (after oil) contributing to 20% of global wastewater (from fabric dyeing).

· Our research reveals that most companies are yet to take accountability for supply chain emissions with only 29% having a public decarbonisation target and that NZ and Australian companies lag behind their international counterparts in this area.

The Ethical Fashion Report reveals that the global fashion industry is facing serious challenges.It is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions and is the second-largestwater polluter globally.Apparel is one of the industries at most risk of having modern slavery occurring initssupply chain.

Forty per centof companies have improved their score since the release of the last Ethical Fashion Report in 2019.Several companies have made improvements in increasing their transparency by publishing supplier lists, tracing further down their supply chain to the risk intense raw materials level and reducing their environmental impact through the use of sustainablefibres.

Unfortunately, low wages are apersistent problemin the industry and feed other issues like excessive overtime and poor living conditions.

“Fashion is an immensely lucrative industry,but the profits rarely reach the workers in the supply chain.This means the people who make our clothes, and their families, remain trapped in poverty by a system that exploits them for profit.This has tochange.”

Payinga living wage is the most important factor in changing the lives of millions of workers, yet it is consistently the lowest performing area of the Ethical Fashion Report. “We hope that fashion brands willwork towardsresilient, planet-friendly, people-focused production models,”saysGray.

Tearfund’s Ethical Fashion Guide2021can be downloaded at tearfund.org.nz/ethicalfashionguide

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