Tearfund hits back at Trelise Cooper's claim its F rating in ethical fashion report was unfair

The charity organisation behind the report which gave Trelise Cooper an F for ethical manufacturing has responded to claims its methodology is unfair.

The Tearfund and World Baptist Aid Australia report scrutinised more than 100 companies and 400 brands, including 18 New Zealand companies.

While brands such as Icebreaker and Kathmandu scored highly, Karen Walker received a C and Ruby a D+. Fellow Kiwi designer Trelise Cooper was awarded a dismal F for its labour practices.

The company said the grade it was given is not an accurate reflection of its ethical standards or behaviour.

"Tearfund demanded an arbitrary, limited timeframe for a very intense and detailed report that we simply could not meet," a spokesperson said in a statement.

"We volunteered to participate instead in the following year, which they did not accept."

Trelise Cooper also pointed out that it had developed an Ethical Code of Conduct, which it said ensures workers are not exploited.

In response to these comments, Tearfund CEO Ian McInnes told Newshub that the organisation stands behind the methodology of its Ethical Fashion Report.

"We believe the timeframes for completing the survey are reasonable," he said.

"We give companies just over four months to complete the survey; the reason for this timeframe is to ensure we give them enough time while at the same time ensuring we capture an accurate assessment of their current ethical practices."

He said approximately 80 percent of the 114 companies surveyed in the report submitted their information before the deadline, proving that they gave them a fair amount of time.

Mr McInnes also disputed claims that companies are automatically given an F if they don’t participate. 

"We believe information about all major companies should be available to the public so consumers can ensure they're not buying clothes that could be made by people trapped in exploitation," he explained.

"So, if companies choose not to complete the survey we assess them on publicly available information."

He said some companies who didn't participate still scored quite highly in the report, such as Levi Strauss, which scored a B-.

"Most who don't complete the survey don't receive an F. If companies score an F it means they have little to no information publicly available, which no longer meets industry standards around transparency."

On Wednesday WORLD founder Dame Denise L'Estrange-Corbet told RadioLIVE that she's "very disappointed" in Trelise Cooper and other brands who use cheap offshore labour.

"They're making huge mark-ups on the back of children making clothes and really bad working conditions," she said.

"Trelise Cooper came out and said she was deeply serious about social responsibility. Well if she was, then she wouldn't be manufacturing in a third world country."

She said she "couldn't sleep at night" if she knew children were making her label's clothing.

When approached by Newshub, Dame Trelise Cooper said she "didn’t want to engage" with Dame Denise's criticism but pointed out the 'social responsibility' section of her company website.