How Your Favourite Brands Rated In The Ethical Fashion Guide 2019

How ethical are your favourite New Zealand brands? This year's report shows some are striding ahead while others need to catch up

New Zealand company Kowtow have received the highest score of A+ in the 2019 Ethical Fashion Report. Photo / Supplied

The annual Tearfund Ethical Fashion Report is an important initiative that investigates and grades brands on how ethically they are manufacturing throughout their supply chain.

In the wake of the Rana Plaza collapse of 2013, the deadliest garment-factory accident in history in which 1,134 people were killed and about 2,500 injured, holding the fashion industry to account has steadily become more important to consumers. 

A growing concern of the environmental impact of the fashion industry also has people wanting to know how brands are lessening their footprint on the earth.

READ: Why We Need A Fashion Revolution

While a garment could be physically stitched together in New Zealand, more often than not the fabric will be imported, as well as trimmings like zips, thread and buttons. This means in order for brands to claim they are truly ethically and sustainably manufactured, they need to be aware of their supply chain from beginning to end.

Compiled in partnership with Baptist World Aid Australia, the report looks at the strategies brands have in place to protect their employees and the environment from exploitation, and grades them from A-F on these systems. These grades are compiled into the Ethical Fashion Guide which can be downloaded or ordered as a booklet online.

There have been some improvements on last year’s scores, with seven New Zealand companies receiving an A grade this year, up from five in 2018. However, ten New Zealand companies received a grade of D or lower, with the other 11 scoring in between. 

The top performing New Zealand companies include Icebreaker, Kowtow, Kathmandu, Nature Baby and AS Colour, and all the New Zealand companies that participated, except one, have held or improved their grade in the last 12 months. 

Icebreaker received an A+ rating last year and this year. Photo / Supplied

Kowtow in particular are proud to announce the received the top grade of A+ this year. "As designers, we’re responsible for the entire lifetime of a garment, and that starts with the conditions of how it was made," says Gosia Piatek, the brand's founder and creative director.

"The report asks brands to look into their manufacturing and ensure best practices are followed, and we believe that by only positive change can come from that." 

While some New Zealand brands are world leaders in ethical fashion, Tearfund have noted a number of New Zealand companies received low grades.

“The fashion industry is moving in a particular direction and that is towards ethical practices, transparency and care for the planet,” says Claire Hart, Tearfund’s Education & Advocacy Manager.

READ: How Local Label Maggie Marilyn Is Taking Ethically-Made Fashion To The World

“Companies that are choosing not to disclose information about what they’re doing to combat these systemic issues are the ones that are receiving D and F grades in the Ethical Fashion Report. Ultimately these companies risk their bottom line if they fall much further behind the international trend, because public demand for transparency and supply chains free of exploitation is only growing.”

Progress is being made despite this, with the recent launch of initiatives like Mindful Fashion NZ, spearheaded by Kate Sylvester and Ruby’s Emily Miller-Sharma. The collaboration between several New Zealand brands hopes to help consumers make informed choices about buying local designs.

See the results of New Zealand's Ethical Fashion Report audit below, and find more information on the Tearfund Website.

* = Brand has chosen not to participate and is rated on publicly available information.

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