Apparel retailers has shown some progress compared to previous benchmarks but still fail to fully protect workers’ rights. These companies have high expectations for their suppliers, but these are not backed by responsible purchasing practices or supply chain mapping.
The latest Corporate Human Rights Benchmark and Gender Benchmark by The World Benchmarking Alliance (WBA) revealed major gaps in the supply chain processes and commitments of apparel companies, putting millions of garment workers in the global supply chain at risk.
WBA assessed 55 of the world’s most influential apparel companies, including Adidas, Fast Retailing, Kering, SHEIN, and VF Corporation, based on their governance and strategy, workplace, and supply chain practices.
It said that 69 per cent of companies have improved their score since 2018 on key human rights indicators. And more than 60 per cent of companies scored less than 20/100 points on the human rights indicators, and 38 per cent scored less than 20/100 points on the gender equality indicators.
It further adds that the high-performing companies across both benchmarks, including VF Corporation and Inditex, have fundamental corporate due diligence and sector-specific policies for their supply chains to protect workers against violence, harassment, and child and forced labour.
Many companies including SHEIN, Prada, and Youngor Group fail to meet key indicators across human rights and gender equality.
94 per cent of companies place expectations on their suppliers regarding human rights and/or gender equality, but less than a third of these companies take actions that set suppliers up for success, such as avoiding short notice requirements and delayed payments, mapping supply chains, or providing targeted support on gender equality.
Of all apparel companies assessed, only 12 companies (22 per cent) disclose evidence of activities that support their suppliers in the payment of living wage. When it comes to corporate commitments, only 7 companies (13 per cent) disclose a time bound target for the payment of living wages across their supply chains or include living wage requirements in their contracts with suppliers.
Namit Agarwal the World Benchmarking Alliance’s Social Transformation Lead, said, “Fashion brands are still too slow to respect human rights and gender equality. Our research shows big gaps between what companies claim to do in their supply chains and what actually happens. Companies are failing to support suppliers and workers putting at risk the apparel sector as a whole. Not a single company requires its suppliers to offer a minimum of 14 weeks of maternity leave, which is an internationally agreed standard.”