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The Ethical Fashion Guide will empower you to purchase ethically.

In this guide we've assessed 308 fashion brands and referenced the grades received by their parent companies in The Australian Fashion Report. Preference those companies which are doing the most to uphold the rights of their workers.

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Behind the Barcode FAQ

What is Behind the Barcode?

Behind the Barcode is a series of industry reports which seek to empower consumers to purchase ethically and, by doing so, encourage companies to ensure workers are protected and not harmed; that they are rewarded, not exploited; and that they can work free from the tyranny of modern slavery. The guides grade 308 fashion brands and 100 electronics brands operating in Australia and around the world, and assesses the systems they have in place to protect the workers in their supply chain from exploitation, forced labour and child labour.

How can I take action?

Check out these letter writing templates which you can use to contact the brands you love and encourage them to do all they can to protect the workers in their supply chain – your voice can be a catalyst for change!

Become more informed by reading and sharing our set of three factsheets on the fashion industry, highlighting the labour exploitation issues that exist from field to factory, focusing on risks in Uzbekistan, India and Bangladesh.

How are grades calculated?

The grades awarded in this report are a measure of the efforts undertaken by each company to mitigate the risks of forced labour, child labour and worker exploitation throughout their supply chains. Higher grades correspond to companies with a labour rights management system that, if implemented well, should reduce the risk and extent of worker exploitation in the production of that company’s products.

These grades are derived from research undertaken by Baptist World Aid Australia and published in The Australian Fashion Report and The Electronics Industry Trends report.

Our research team assesses 40  specific criteria about each company’s labour rights management system.  These assessments look at three critical stages of the supply chain as a proxy for the entire supply chain: raw materials, inputs production and final manufacturing. The questions are divided into four sections:  

  • POLICIES: Our research team evaluates the company’s code of conduct, sourcing and subcontracting policies, and involvement with other organisations that work to combat worker exploitation.
  • KNOWING SUPPLIERS: Our research team evaluates how much of the supply chain the company has traced and whether it has disclosed any information to the public about its supply chain.
  • AUDITING AND SUPPLIER RELATIONSHIPS: Our research team assesses how much of the supply chain is audited for compliance with the company’s policies and looks at how the company manages supplier relationships to improve working conditions.
  • WORKER EMPOWERMENT: Our research team considers the company’s efforts to pay workers a living wage and assesses whether the company supports other aspects of worker well-being such as access to unions, collective bargaining agreements and grievance mechanisms.

What is different about the grades in the Australian Fashion Report 2016?

Our reports from 2013 to 2015 were based on research conducted by Baptist World Aid Australia using the Free2Work grading tool and methodology which was developed in conjunction with Not For Sale and the International Labor Rights Forum. This grading tool contained 61 questions which looked at a company’s efforts to reduce the risk of modern slavery in its supply chain. The last report published using this grading tool was the 2016 Electronics Industry Trends Report.

In the 2016 Australian Fashion Report our team has used a new tool which increases the emphasis on traceability (how well companies know their supply chains) and the payment of living wages. We believe that these two areas of focus are amongst the most important considerations when it comes to improving worker welfare. The new grading tool also adds a new focus on worker safety, given its importance to worker wellbeing and in consideration of the strong steps the industry has taken to respond to this concern since the Rana Plaza factory collapse in 2013.

The new grading tool has been developed in the 12 months since the publication of the last Australian Fashion Report and reflects our desire to see continual improvement across the fashion industry. The tool was developed with input from supply chain specialists, NGOs and apparel industry experts.

For the majority of companies, this grading tool has made it more difficult to achieve high grades. While many of the specific initiatives are comparable across reports, the grades in this report should not be compared with past reports. Some companies that have invested in improvements in their labour rights management systems will not see this investment reflected in a grade improvement relative to their 2015 grade, while other companies that have not made substantial investments will likely receive a lower grade.

How should I use the Ethical Fashion Guide?

We hope that you take this little guide with you when you go shopping to empower you to make everyday ethical purchasing decisions. We would encourage you to also write to companies directly informing them that you are a customer and would like to see them guarantee the workers who make their products are paid a living wage.

How do companies earn a credit for paying a living wage?

Our research team asks companies for evidence that they are paying workers a living wage. A living wage is defined as a wage sufficient to support all the basic needs of a worker and his or her dependents with some money left over for discretionary spending and saving for emergencies. This amount varies between country and city. The legal minimum wage in many countries is not sufficient for all basic needs and leaves many workers trapped in a cycle of poverty.

Companies are asked to provide an audit report which demonstrates that wages being paid are above minimum wage and (if applicable) any additional livelihood services, such as healthcare or education, are being provided. Companies are also asked to provide documentation demonstrating that they have developed a methodology to understand and calculate a living wage and have completed formal calculations to demonstrate that living wages are being paid.

Why are non-responsive companies given low grades instead of being excluded from the report?

Our research team grades companies based on the publically available information in their sustainability reports, annual reports and websites. It then follows up by actively seeking to engage companies to verify its findings and invites them to provide additional information about their practices. For those companies that are non-responsive initially, our research team commits to engaging them through the use of at least three different mediums (e.g. letters, phone calls and emails), it also sends them the final assessment, allowing companies an opportunity to respond. In the majority of instances where companies don’t respond, it’s because they have chosen not to.

Baptist World Aid Australia believes that it’s important that we grade these companies. If companies haven’t been transparent about what they are doing to uphold worker rights, then how can the public feel confident that their products are being made in a way that is free of exploitation?

Both the report and the guide highlight the companies which haven’t responded to our research team by marking them with an asterisks. We welcome their engagement for our future research.

Baptist World Aid Australia is committed to working productively with companies in order to let the public know what they are doing to uphold worker rights and to help them take further action on this critical issue. Our research team is always interested in hearing more about what activities companies have engaged in to address exploitation, and often shares these stories with supporters of the Australian Fashion Report.

Fair trade clothing brands receive the highest grades in your fashion report. Are there other fair trade clothing brands in Australia?

The Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand also produces a Fair Trade Shopping Guide which you can download or order directly from them at www.fta.org.au



Thank you for your interest in our Behind the Barcode research.

Order Inquiries

hello@baptistworldaid.org.au / 1300 789 991

Media and Research Inquiries

Jasmin Mawson

Advocacy Research and Campaign Coordinator

Email: Jasmin.Mawson@baptistworldaid.org.au

Phone: (02) 9921 3361

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