What is the cost of clothing?

Not simply, what is the price paid at the register, but what is the human cost to produce them? What is “the story behind the barcode”?

These questions are at the heart of a newly released Ethics Fashion Guide, now in its fourth year of publication, produced by Baptist World Aid Australia (BWAA).

The guide rates 330 fashion brands based on policies to mitigate worker exploitation, knowledge of suppliers, auditing of and relationships with suppliers, and worker empowerment (pay fair wages, allow collective bargaining and so on).

“The grades awarded by the Ethical Fashion Report are a measure of the efforts undertaken by each company to mitigate the risks of forced labor, child labor and worker exploitation in their supply chains,” BWAA explains. “Higher grades are given to companies with labor rights management systems that, if implemented well, should reduce the extent of worker exploitation.”

In 2017, 81 percent of brands had mechanisms in place to track the origins of their fabrics (up from 32 percent when the report launched in 2013).

Forty-five percent could trace the origins of other raw materials used to make their products (up from 17 percent in 2013). Forty-two percent are working to pay fairer wages (up from 11 percent).

Forty-seven brands received an A rating (A-, A or A+), 117 a B rating, 125 a C rating, 25 a D rating and 16 an F rating.

Among the highest rated were: Adidas (A-), C9 by Champion (B+), Dockers (B+), H&M (B+), Hanes (B+), Jockey (A-), Levis (B+), LuLuLemon (B+) and Reebok (A-).

Among the lowest rated were: Abercrombie & Fitch (D+), Abercrombie Kids (D+), Coco Beach (D-), Forever 21 (D+), Hollister (D+), Pink (D+) and Victoria’s Secret (D+).

Many of the brands receiving D or F ratings did not respond to information requests, the report explained, and “were graded using publicly available information.”

The 2017 fashion guide is available here.

An EthicsDaily.com news brief about the 2016 guide is available here.

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