It’s that time of year again. Report season. And, along with the reports, come the revelations. Last week, for instance, we wrote about Stand.earth’s gloomy-yet-illuminating dossier on fashion industry emissions (Spoiler alert: they’re still going in the wrong direction). This week, it’s global non-profit and advocacy group Remake‘s turn, sharing its annual Fashion Accountability Report. Which is exactly what it sounds like: a comprehensive write-up on the who’s who of the fashion industry – their collective and individual efforts toward progress, and their areas of transgression.
The report covers a broad spectrum of significant points, both human and environmental, from transparency and traceability to raw materials. It’s safe to say, then, that there’s a lot of ground covered – and a lot to unpack.
What’s worth noting is a top line, though, before getting into the granular detail is what the report calls “a tale of two opposing truths”: a kind of push-pull effect which acknowledges that systemic change on any real scale is being stymied by the same organizations which agree to them in principal – and, of course, by the proliferation of fast fashion despite fairly universal agreement that the industry is morally unconscionable – but wherein the fact of the push forward being felt at all is a positive shift in itself.
It’s a classic case of the unstoppable force vs. the immovable object: the entrenched practices of a fashion industry which has, for much of its existence, gotten by without the kind of scrutiny it now faces, versus the undeniable momentum toward ecological progress. What’s striking here, though, is that the immovable object is starting to wobble. What Remake refers to, rather poetically, as “a glimmer of systemic change amidst a prevailing flood of harmful industry practices.”
It’s easy to see this play out in the figures from the report, too: even the fact that, while 29% of the brand’s approached to participate agreed to engage in the process and only 3% declined, 67% apparently decided that the best option was not to respond at all.
Participants in the study include names like Burberry, the Supreme-owning umbrella group VF Corp, and superbrands like Levi’s, who regularly agree to take part in reports such as this one, but also surprise names like SHEIN – the meteoric fast fashion giant whom one might reasonably expect to opt instead for total opacity. (For what it’s worth, only Amazon and Bestseller flat-out said no – a decision which may well backfire given that it really only raises one question: Why?)
Elsewhere, the same tug-of-war is playing out in different ways: while 45% of the 58 companies surveyed have set short-term emissions targets in line with the 1.5C warming pathway, for example, this is mirrored darkly in the 36% which have “not committed to setting any science-based emissions reduction targets.” Similarly, where 52% “maintained a policy against the use of furs and exotic skins,” according to the report, only 9% actually demonstrated “year-on-year progress towards traceable and certified fibers sourced from animals” – a fact which doesn’t cancel the good of an industry trend toward the transition from fur, but does take the shine off just a little bit. As does the not-so-heartwarming stat that “[z]ero companies… demonstrated that they place the well-being of their employees and the workers along their value chains at the center of their business model transition plans.”
And this is basically how the report plays out in more-or-less every category: one hand gives, the other takes. And, while the numbers in general – certainly when taken individually at face value – do seem to make for gloomy reading, it’s the shifting balance which leaves room for a more positive outlook.
There is a sense here, amongst the various failings and inadequacies, that there is movement. That perhaps, sooner rather than later – if groups like Remake continue to publish reports like this, pushing these findings out into the open – the weight might shift. The give might outnumber the take. Even if by just a little.
And then a little more.
You can read the report in its entirety at remake.world.