Fashion labels increasingly ethical - report

A young tailor sews a piece of fabric woven in the Ivory Coast (Reuters)
A young tailor sews a piece of fabric woven in the Ivory Coast (Reuters)

Clothing companies are becoming better at tracing the origins of their clothes and paying their employees a decent wage -- but for some companies there's plenty to be done, according to a new report.

The 2016 edition of the Ethical Fashion Guide, produced by Baptist World Aid subsidiary Behind the Barcode, shows that 30 percent more fashion labels are tracing where their fabrics are coming from than in 2013.

The report also shows that almost three times as many companies are paying their workers significantly more than the minimum wage (32 percent, up from 11 percent in 2013), while 20 percent more are tracing where their raw materials are sourced from than in 2013.

However, the study also suggests that many businesses have plenty to work on -- with 308 brands and 87 companies given a rating within the report, based on how well their processes diminish "the risk of modern slavery, child labour and exploitation".

The rating is based on 40 different criteria linked to the company's "policies, knowledge of their supply chain, supplier relationships, monitoring practices and level of worker empowerment".

Much-maligned companies Kmart and Nike did not get the F ratings their reputations would indicate, instead garnering respectable grades of B and C+.

Instead it was other, somewhat smaller, companies that received lowly grades -- such as shoe brand Hush Puppies and women's online clothing store, which were both given the dreaded F rating.

Outdoor clothing provider Macpac (D+), Australian shoe designer Julius Marlow (F) and women's clothing company Forever 21 (F) were also branded with poor grades.

Kiwi brands Pumpkin Patch and Karen Walker showed that there was a lot of room for improvement for prominent New Zealand brands, with their ratings of D and C espectively.

Audrey Blue, Etiko and Mighty Good Undies were the only companies on the list to receive a perfect grade of A+.