Three months since the Australian Modern Slavery Act was legislated, an industry-leading report has revealed that Australian fashion brands are feeling the pressure to ensure workers within their supply chain have access to a fair wage and basic human rights.
Baptist World Aid Australia’s Ethical Fashion Report highlights which Australian brands are meeting these expectations, and those continuing to fall behind the line.
The sixth edition of the Ethical Fashion Report grades 130 apparel companies from A to F on current systems and strategies in place to ethically manage their supply chains.
In the past year, the report found 38% of companies have improved their overall grade, with a significant improvement across the industry in 79% of the areas assessed. These areas include development in gender equality, responsible purchasing practices, child and forced labour, and transparency.
This year the report has seen the substantial progress in traceability down the supply chain.
John Hickey is the CEO of Baptist World Aid. He said that Australia was finally beginning, “to meet the ethical standards that are demonstrated globally. Year on Year, we are proud to see more Australian companies taking a proactive step in being accountable to consumers and workers by participating in our Report, and we hope the Act motivates more companies to follow suit.”
“We know that the beginning of the supply chain is where the risk of child labour, forced labour and exploitation is most prevalent, so it’s encouraging to see from the report that more companies are taking proactive action to identify and mitigate these risks,” said Mr Hickey.
Carolyn Kitto is the Director of Stop the Traffik Australia. She said the Modern Slavery Act was a game changer for the fashion industry.
“The Act will ensure fashion brands are prioritising transparency, and consumers will be able to see what their most-loved labels are doing to address modern slavery in their supply chain. But more importantly, the Act has impacted the lives of millions of workers and their families.”
Baptist World Aid Australia have included Environmental Management as their fifth grading criteria for the first time.
“The new criterion evaluates a company’s ability to report and address a range of aspects in environmental management including emissions, materials, water use, wastewater and chemical use,” Mr Hickey said.
Mr Hickey said that although noteworthy improvements are being made by leading Australian brands, there is still a significant amount of work to be done for living wages.
“With only five percent of companies able to demonstrate they are paying a living wage to all workers at the final stage of production, it is evident that living wage is a continued challenge we face each year. It’s disheartening to see companies are choosing to neglect this aspect in ethical manufacturing and we hope to see this change significantly as the requirements of the Modern Slavery Act come into play,” he said.
Outland Denim continued their high-ranking status this year, achieving an A+ ethical grade with more Australian brands including Kookai, Cotton On, and Country Road achieving an impressive A- grade.
You can order a digital or physical copy of the 2019 Ethical Fashion Guide here.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor