The 2019 Ethical Fashion Report is out – here’s how your favourite brands fared

16 April 2019
By Fashion Quarterly


As a country, we’re lucky enough to be home to some of the worlds most sustainable and ethical names in fashion. However, with tightened restrictions in the 2019 Ethical Fashion Report, it’s becoming harder and harder to stay on top.

The Tearfund Ethical Fashion Report has been released for 2019, showcasing how many of our homegrown Kiwi brands are paving the way in ethical fashion globally with impressive results.

The report, which Tearfund creates in partnership with Baptist World Aid Australia, looks closely at labels in the international fashion industry and assesses brands within different categories.

In previous years this has included four areas of grading (policies, transparency and traceability, auditing and supplier relationships, and worker employment). However, in 2019, an additional category—environmental management—has been added, which means companies for the first time are now having to account for how they are monitoring and mitigating their environmental impact throughout the supply chain.

Among the 130 global companies representing 480 brands, the report includes 29 New Zealand companies. All are graded from A-F and this year, all but one participating New Zealand company have held or improved their grade in the last 12 months.

It is clear progress is being made, not just indicative by the report but by initiatives such as Mindful Fashion NZ, set up by local designers to address the challenges associated with supply chain tracing and create benchmarks for ethical clothing production in New Zealand.

Find out how New Zealand and international brands fared in this year’s report:

Who are the most ethical New Zealand brands?

Many New Zealand brands have held true to their promise and persistence to practice ethical production of their goods. Here are the top 5 performers:

Icebreaker: A+ grade, same as 2018
Kowtow: A+
grade, compared to 2018 A grade
Kathmandu: A grade, same as 2018
AS Colour: A-
grade, compared to 2018 C+ grade
Nature Baby: A- grade, no comparison as first year in the report

Designers don’t take their rating for granted, and even brands who have rated highly in successive reports, such as Kowtow, continue to strive to make further efforts to improve their processes – there can always be more areas to improve. Gosia Piatek, founder and creative director of Kowtow, is proud of the company’s success and understands the level of responsibility she carries as a designer:

“As designers, we’re responsible for the entire lifetime of a garment, and that starts with the conditions of how it was made. 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.”

With seven New Zealand companies graded in the ‘A’ range, up five from last year, this result shows a step in the right direction.

READ: The world’s largest fashion movement urges you to ask who made your clothes. Here’s why. 

2019 New Zealand Company Grades

NZ companies in 2019 Ethical Fashion Report

*indicates non-responsive company who chose not to engage with 2019 research.

READ: How to reduce your fashion footprint


Room for improvement with the living wage

There has been significant movement by the fashion industry to improve certain areas: For example, 61% of companies have created policies addressing gender inequality in their supply chain (up 22% on last year) and introduced strategies to address the discrimination faced by women; 45% of companies have put in place policies to improve working conditions (up 18%); and 35% of companies could demonstrate remediation plans to redress child or forced labour if it was found in their supply chain (up 17% on last year).

However, there is definitely room for improvement when it comes to the living wage, with the report finding, alarmingly, only 5% of companies could demonstrate that all workers in their final stage of production were receiving a living wage. A living wage is a wage that is sufficient for workers to be able to afford the basics (food, water, healthcare, clothing, electricity, and education) and earning this could lift a significant amount of workers out of poverty and transform their lives.

The good news is 48% of companies assessed in 2019 have started to develop a living wage methodology and 24% have published a commitment to pay a living wage.

> Download the full report here.

WATCH: How did New Zealand brands rank in 2019?

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How did popular international brands score?

Brands Alphabetically (A-B)
adidas, A
American Apparel, A-
Ben Sherman, D+
Berlei, A
Billabong, C-
Blue Illusion, C+
Bonds, A
boohoo, C-
Bras N Things, A

Brands (C-G)
Calvin Klein, C+
Cheap Monday, B+
Converse, B-
Cotton On Group, A-
Country Road, A-
Cue, C-
David Jones, B
Decjuba, D-
Dorothy Perkins, C+
Dotti, C+
Elwood, C
EziBuy, D+
Forever New, B
Gorman, B

Brands (H-N)
H&M, B+
Hugo Boss, C+
Jacquie E,  C+
Just Jeans, C+
Jeanswest, B+
Jockey, A
Kmart, B+
Kookai, A-
Ksubi, B
Lacoste, C-
Lee, B
Lorna Jane, C+
Lululemon Athletica, A-
Mirrou, D
New Balance, B
Nike, B-

Brands (P-Z)
Patagonia, A
Peter Alexander, C+
Portmans, C+
Puma, B
Ralph Lauren, C-
R.M. Wiliams, B-
Seafolly, B
Seed Heritage, C-
Tigerlily, S-
Tommy Hilfiger, C+
Topshop, C+
Victoria’s Secret, B
Witchery, A-
Zara, A
Zimmermann, B-

READ: Before you buy that ‘nice top’ on sale, ask yourself these three questions

Go behind-the-scenes and watch Kowtow’s manufacturing process in action here:

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Words: Kelly McAuliffe and Maxine Fourie
Photos: Supplied

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