As companies throughout the retail sector work to eradicate forced labor from their supply chain, a new study is shining a light on the apparel brands that are making the greatest efforts to address exploitation.
KnowTheChain, a San Francisco-based company that works with businesses and investors on issues of labor abuse, has published its ranking of 20 large apparel companies based on their efforts to eradicate forced labor and human trafficking from their supply chains.
Among apparel companies, Gap Inc. came out on top, scoring 77 points out of 100. Gap placed second on the overall list, just behind footwear giant Adidas, which scored 81 points. Swedish fast fashion behemoth Hennes & Mauritz AB and Canadian athletic apparel retailer Lululemon tied for third on the list, both scoring 69 points.
Across seven measurement areas, the average company score was 46 out of a possible 100. Overall, luxury brands including Hugo Boss, Kering (holding company of Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Stella McCartney and others) and Ralph Lauren scored much lower than high street apparel retailers such as H&M, Inditex or Primark, with none achieving an above-average score.
Worse yet, only four companies on the survey were rated as efficiently magnifying worker’s voices to upper management, and only five companies were found to engage workers outside of the context of their workplace in a manner that gives them more voice.
Companies are also falling short when it comes to fair recruitment practices. Only six companies require that no fees be charged during any recruitment process conducted throughout the supply chain, and only two companies encourage direct hiring of workers in their supply chains. Poor recruitment practices, including excessive fees, leave workers vulnerable and open to exploitation, particularly through debt bondage.
“Despite international and brand attention on worker issues for more than twenty years, many retailers haven’t addressed the deep seeded causes of worker abuse in their supply chains. Hopefully this benchmark will help them recognize that they need to do better by the people making their clothes and shoes,” said Killian Moote, director of KnowTheChain.