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Transparency ‘must move beyond’ tier-one apparel suppliers

More and more fashion retailers are now disclosing details of apparel suppliers factories, in an apparent move toward transparency. 

However, a lack of detailed information on supply chains can hamper real sustainable progress, advocates GlobalData.

Amazon last week announced its first move toward transparency by publicly disclosing on its website the names, addresses, and other details of more than 1000 facilities that produce Amazon-branded products. It follows similar moves in the past from Fast Retailing, Primark, Adidas and Gap.

However, while many brands list their tier-one apparel suppliers – where clothes are cut, sewn and trimmed – very few have extended to tier-two/three and beyond. Fast Retailing is one example and has published a list of the core fabric mills used, while Walmart’s fashion brand, George, is to start publishing a list of second-tier apparel factories – those typically dyeing, printing and finishing garments – on its website.

Some brands, like those affiliated with the Fair Labour Association, are being required to disclose their tier-one suppliers.

Hannah Abdulla, apparel correspondent at GlobalData, questions whether the information a tier-one supplier list provides can truly empower end-consumers to think and act more sustainably.

“It’s a commendable first step to promoting better conditions for workers, but clothing supply chains are highly complex and can span several international markets, each with differing labour laws,” she said.

“We should be questioning why all brands and retailers aren’t disclosing supplier lists for the product’s entire journey, particularly if they are taking steps to prevent labour abuses in their supply chains. This is the sort of information consumers need to enable them to make informed choices about their purchases and to influence how they use and take care of those products.

“True transparency can only be achieved when this is all disclosed as a matter of practice, is easily accessible and doesn’t have to be requested,” said Abdulla.

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