Does Transparency Equal Sustainability?


You may have noticed H&M received a score of 73/100 on Fashion Revolution's Transparency Index, providing them with the highest score of all the brands evaluated. You may have also seen H&M's coinciding marketing campaign claiming to be the world's most transparent brand. Whilst they did receive the best score, this does not mean that they are sustainable brand?

What is the transparency index?

Each year Fashion Revolution review 250 of the world's biggest fashion retailers and ranks them based on how much disclose about their ethical and environmental policies, practicies and impacts. 

Big fashion brands purchase their products from manufacturers often located across the globe thus freeing them of responsibility of working conditions and practices. When the Rana Plaza factory collapsed people had to dig through the rubble in order to find out which brands were producing clothes there. Transparency demands that companies who made the clothes, from where the cotton came from to where they were sewn, and holds them responsible for the ethical and environmental impacts of their products. 

The brands are scored out of 100 depending on how much information they disclose, with 0 being the lowest and 100 being the highest. No companies scored over 80% transparency, including H&M. 

Does Transparency Mean Sustainability? 

In short, no. Fashion Revolution even states:

"Being transparent doesn’t mean that companies are behaving in a responsible and sustainable manner. A brand may publish a considerable amount of information about its policies, practices and impacts and still be contributing to poor working conditions and environmental degradation." via Fashion Revolution
Transparency simply gives us an insight into the practices of fashion brands and a step towards being able to make change. In order to change something, we need to know what we're changing right?

Are H&M the world's most transparent brand?

I feel like there should have been asterisk on their social media posts. We should appreciate that H&M are moving forward and trying to be as transparent as possible with their practices but are still a major fast fashion brand making billions of $ in profit. They are also making billions of garments every year, many of which are likely to end up in landfill once they are no longer in fashion. They are still part of the environmental problem of the fashion industry. 

Despite gaining the highest transparency score of 73, Fashion Revolution states that all brands revealed very little about their social and environmental practices including information relating to working conditions, living wages and purchasing practices. This information is particularly hard to find since manufacturing is often outsourced to third party companies.

We must also remember that Fashion Revolution only reviews 250 of the world's biggest brands meaning smaller sustainable brands are not included. Many of these more environment focused brands may score much higher than H&M but aren't considered. 

H&M are the most transparent brand out of the 250 reviewed but they are not necessarily sustainable or ethical. They continue to mass produce up to 3 billion garments per year and therefore continue to contribute to the huge amount of clothing waste.

How do you feel about transparency and sustainability?


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