A leading green economy nonprofit, Green America, released a report ranking top fashion companies based on their sustainability and transparency. The results reveal the inadequacies of greening the fashion industry. Their study investigated 14 major corporations, each with household-name brands. The report scored companies based on transparency, sustainability, working conditions, chemical use, waste and water management.
Their findings concluded that none of the top 14 corporations, nor their distinct brands, can be considered industry leaders in terms of ethics or the environment. However, the companies that ranked higher than average include Target, Jan Sport, Nike, Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and The North Face. Companies that scored below average include Ann Taylor, American Eagle, Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie and Fitch, Walmart, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters and Free People.
The worst companies, which failed metrics on Green America’s score card, include J. Crew, OshKosh B’gosh and Forever 21.
“Consumers want sustainable clothing, and the market is responding. But too often, many of the promises we hear from conventional companies are token sustainability initiatives that are band-aids to one small part of the problem, or empty platitudes without a plan to achieve real change. Sustainability shouldn’t just be a marketing trend,” said Green America’s social justice campaigns manager, Caroline Chen.
The report also called out corporations’ practice of promoting “token brands,” or one eco-textile line that they can use for public relations knowing that consumers will associate their name with sustainability without looking further into the rest of their lines. Similarly, many corporations make sweeping sustainability pledges without specifying metrics nor timelines and hardly follow through with implementation.
Overall, the textile industry uses 43 million tons of toxic chemicals every year, and most companies do not disclose the source of their chemicals so it is difficult to understand the health impacts. Green America’s report suggests that those who are concerned about chemicals in clothing should shop at thrift stores and wear clothing until it wears out– this not only helps reduce the amount of new clothing produced, it also reduces how many chemicals you are personally exposed to.
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