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How to Get a ‘Just Transition’ in Fashion, Per Remake

WWD
WWD
 2022-11-30

Trailing the major climate summits, Remake’s fashion accountability report is predicting trials ahead for fashion to fulfill its eco promises.

Remake has been evaluating fashion companies on their social and environmental progress since 2016, and its latest report spans 58 of fashion’s largest players across categories. Its scoring system goes up to 150 points across areas including wage and worker wellbeing, traceability, raw materials, environmental justice and more — with higher being better.

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Though it was released formally earlier this month, Remake’s 2022 fashion accountability report, per Elizabeth Cline, Remake’s director of advocacy and policy, closely aligns with recent global events like COP27, which ran Nov 6. to Nov. 18 and convened more than 35,000 decision-makers in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

“The Remake Fashion Accountability Report is closely aligned with one of the key demands of COP27, which is a ‘Just Transition’ [away from coal-powered economies],” Cline told WWD. “A Just Transition demands that workers have a seat at the head of the negotiating table in climate agreements and calls on governments and companies to ensure an equitable, community-led transition to a low-carbon future. Remake’s Accountability Report tracks a Just Transition by asking that fashion brand’s pay a living wage and commit to contributing financing so that their factories and raw material producers can slash carbon, as this is where the vast majority of the industry emissions occur.”

Cline said brands can financially back factories’ switch to renewable energy, thus fueling divestment from coal-powered energy, as well as help farmers switch to regenerative practices that store carbon in the soil.

“The good news is that 11 companies (or 19 percent) were able to demonstrate that they are investing in suppliers and offering financial incentives or assistance for factories to decarbonize,” Cline said. Some of them include American Eagle Outfitters, Target, Kering, Levi Strauss & Co. and Lululemon.

Per the report, four companies — Hanesbrands Inc., Patagonia, Ralph Lauren and Reformation — published some progress toward a living wage in their supply chains, disclosing their methodology. But for real eco-bragging rights, Remake celebrated several achievements by brands including Ganni adopting a binding buyer code of conduct, and Victoria’s Secret for fronting $8.5 million to 1,250 Thai garment workers for severance they were owed (marking the largest single-factory wage theft settlement in history).

Other wins in the material space were seen by Everlane, Nike and Patagonia — all of whom reduced their total usage of virgin polyester.

Remake also applauded brands’ policy activism, including Reformation and Everlane for officially endorsing the “Fabric Act” as well as 46 percent of companies who signed the International Accord, or the successor agreement to the Bangladesh Accord, which counts 185 signatories. One holdout to signing the Accord is Levi’s, which Remake has repeatedly made the focus of targeted campaigns .

Three companies (or 5 percent) can be rendered climate heroes — Burberry, Everlane and H&M Group — having met all four of Remake’s climate demands, which include: publishing their full carbon emissions; setting approved Science Based Targets in line with a 1.5-degrees Celsius pathway; setting approved long-term net-zero targets, and demonstrating how they’re reducing their total greenhouse gas emissions compared to their baseline years.

Though that’s not the only standout evidence in the report. Some news was better than others.

“If you’re looking for companies to avoid this holiday season, the list of brands that never agreed to #PayUp [the campaign that rocketed Remake to stardom and restored $22 billion in lost wages amid the pandemic] remains a good place to start,” Cline continued. “One of the glaring similarities between the companies at the very bottom of the list is that they’re the same companies that didn’t agree to #PayUp for the billions of dollars of clothing orders they placed during the pandemic, including Ross Dress for Less, Edinburgh Woollen Mills, UBRN (Urban Outfitters, Free People, Anthropologie), TJX (TJ Maxx and Marshalls), J.C. Penney, Sears and Forever 21,” claimed Cline.

To note, every company included in Remake’s report received the opportunity to review its scoresheet ahead of publishing. This year, 17 companies — or 29 percent — engaged in this process, which is disclosed in the report. Engaged companies include Boohoo, Inditex, Levi’s, VF, Shein and more.

Through it all, Remake’s hope is to motivate brands to improve.

“The future of fashion is likely to be circular and net-zero, but we will have to fight to make this ‘greener’ industry equitable,” Cline said. “It’s on track to be just as exploitative as the current industry. But, by combining the collective action of our community with strong policies, binding commitments and independent accountability tools like the Remake Fashion Accountability Report, we remain hopeful that we’ll see a transformed industry in the coming years.”

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