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Forever 21, Ross, Walmart Among Brands With Negative Scores in Remake’s Accountability Report

·5 min read

The results are in on this year’s fashion accountability offenders — at least according to nonprofit Remake’s second annual accountability report.

Forever 21, Ross, Global Brands Group, TJX Cos. Inc., Edinburgh Woolen Mill, The Children’s Place, Mothercare, J.C. Penney Co. Inc., Sears, Kohl’s Corp., American Eagle Outfitters Inc., Lululemon Athletica, Abercrombie & Fitch Co., Fashion Nova, Missguided and Walmart Inc. are among the worst of the lot — drumming up negative scores on a possible 150-point scale — in the report released Wednesday.

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Remake relied on consultations with more than a dozen industry experts across human rights, employment, fashion and law, as well as publicly available disclosures. The nonprofit scored 60 fashion companies, across luxury, fast fashion, children’s wear and more. The cross section is representative of the most profitable companies in the sector, as well as a handful of smaller brands like Christy Dawn, Nudie Jeans and Nisolo, which were sampled last year.

The core areas of evaluation include transparency, wages and well-being, commercial practices, raw materials, environmental justice and climate change, governance, diversity and inclusion.

New this year, Remake scored companies on “product output,” or volume of goods, and total environmental impact, while taking to task circularity greenwashing, which the nonprofit described as the new “norm.”

In November 2020, Supreme, Allbirds and Everlane were among Remake’s sustainability worst offenders, and this year’s deep-dive equally showed no mercy, with the lowest score being -13 (awarded to Forever 21 and Ross), the average score being 17 points and the highest score being 83 points (awarded to Nisolo).

Small- to medium-sized enterprises scored four times higher (37 points on average) than big corporations — which saw an average score of 9 points.

“[Ross] is one of the most profitable apparel companies in the world, believe it or not, and one of the least socially responsible, as is evident by its score. Some of the merchandise in Ross’s retail outlets are made exclusively for its stores, and those products are made with an appalling track record on human rights. In fact, Ross Dress for Less is one of the top violators of wage theft in California apparel factories, having benefited for years from the state’s sweatshop conditions,” the report noted.

Remake’s report authors also pointed out that Ross Stores “allowed its trade associations to lobby against California’s Garment Worker Protection Act,” a historic piece of legislation targeting wage theft that passed in California in September.

In a tie with Ross, Forever 21 was blasted for its low-price, fast-fashion business model, although it’s no “longer the king of fast fashion,” as the report noted.

“The brand has earned its notoriety time and again by paying sweatshop wages in Los Angeles, stealing from young designers and communities of color, and refusing to disclose any credible information that would make its supply chain more transparent,” Remake’s appraisal continued. As with other offenders, the California company never endorsed the Garment Worker Protection Act. “The only area where Forever 21 scored points was in animal welfare, which is a red herring that distracts from the company’s reliance on oil-derived fabrics like polyester.”

Global Brands Group, similarly, got shamed for having board stake at the American Apparel and Footwear Association, which lobbied against the legislation. Some 37 percent of companies, or 22 companies, in the report either lobbied against the bill or were complicit in trade lobbying.

At the other end of the spectrum, Nisolo was the highest-scoring brand for being an active listener and putting “substantial social sustainability efforts in the public domain,” per the report.

“This is exactly what we want brands to do, so citizens and workers can hold brands to account. The Nashville-based leather goods brand is notable as the only company that provides evidence that not only do its garment makers and direct employees earn a living wage, but so do its models, photographers, photo assistants and logistics workers. The company is also transparent about how many products it produces (61,773 last year across its entire assortment) and its carbon footprint,” according to the report. But there’s always room for improvement, as the report authors called for more detail on Nisolo’s raw material suppliers, especially around leather sourcing.

Other callouts include “woke-washing,” or running campaigns to appeal to communities of color without lasting teeth or stake in decision-making, as with the only 12 percent of companies invested in communities where they operate, or the mere 8 percent of companies able to prove living wages.

While the report revealed science-based climate targets are being set, with 55 percent of companies publishing Scope 1, 2 (direct) and 3 (indirect) emissions — the report ascertained only one company, Levi’s, is on track.

“Levi’s was early to adopt more sustainable practices like water-saving and less toxic denim manufacturing, and among the first big brands to set an ambitious carbon-cutting target for its supply chain. Levi’s reported a reduction in CO2 in 2020 in line with its science-based target, and it is the only big company that can demonstrate this kind of progress (however, the brand says the pandemic likely contributed to the reduction, so we’ll be watching them closely next year),” according to the report.

The full report can be found at Remake’s website and, additionally, the nonprofit will hold a press conference Wednesday discussing its findings.

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