Words like ethical and sustainable have become buzzwords in the fashion industry lately, but sadly this has also brought a lot of greenwashing from fashion brands around such important topics in order to gain more visibility. What is helping to achieve real ethical and sustainable accountability from fashion brands is the focus on another important concept: transparency

What does transparency mean in the fashion industry?

Transparency is essential for consumers to understand what they are wearing and who made it, as well as under which conditions their clothes were made and their environmental impact.  We can say that transparency is the foundation of sustainability because without it, it won’t be possible to achieve a sustainable, accountable, and fair fashion industry. More specifically the practice of transparency in the fashion business refers to the practice of openly sharing information about how, where, and by whom a product was made. It entails sharing information about supply chains, business practices, and the effects on workers, communities, and the environment in the fashion industry. Customers know exactly what they’re getting, with information from every stage of the manufacturing process. Transparency is essential for connecting the dots of the fashion industry’s problems and understanding how to fix them. This helps the process of holding major corporations accountable for their human rights and environmental impacts throughout their supply chains.

Why does it matter?

The Rana Plaza tragedy in 2013 served as a strong wake up call about why transparency is important, as thousands of garment workers were killed as a result of irresponsible behavior by major fashion brands. But, nine years after Rana Plaza, there is still much to be done. Only two years ago the global health crisis highlighted the importance of transparency: almost immediately after lockdowns began in March 2020, stories emerged of major fashion brands canceling orders and abandoning suppliers and vulnerable workers.

The lack of visibility in supply chains allows exploitative, unsafe working conditions and environmental damage to thrive while hiding who is responsible and has the power to address these issues.

Increased transparency, on the other hand, allows workers’ rights and environmental advocates to identify, report, and redress suspected abuses, and it assists brands and retailers in better tracking and managing social, environmental, and governance risks that affect their business.

Consumers have the right to make the best purchase decisions for themselves, for the planet, and for its inhabitants and transparency allows them to make better decisions.

It is in the interest of a fashion brand to seek for transparency

From the standpoint of a brand, it is in their best interest to be more transparent and disclose all relevant information: radical transparency is trending. But why? As a result of the Rana Plaza tragedy and its consequences, as well as the numerous scandals that followed involving bad practices by major fashion brands, the fashion industry is experiencing a growing trust deficit. Fashion companies must accept that a more skeptical consumer now expects complete transparency throughout the value chain. 

Given the importance of regaining that trust, fashion industry players cannot afford to ignore long-standing practices across their businesses. McKinsey and Business of Fashion report that 52% of millennials always conduct background research of information before making a purchase. Consumers are increasingly concerned about issues such as fair labor, sustainable sourcing, and the environment. They want to support brands that are doing good in the world, with 66% willing to pay more for environmentally friendly products. Before purchasing a product, 42% of millennials say they want to know what is in it and how it is made. As a result, several brands have already moved toward radical transparency in manufacturing in the hopes of regaining the trust of disillusioned customers. This could include information about the origins of the product or the environmental impact of manufacturing. Being transparent is a tool useful for storytelling, which in turn helps brands build or regain trust with their audience.

How to achieve transparency in your fashion brand?

Now that we know everything there is to know about transparency and why it is beneficial to our brand, let’s get down to business and see how we can put it into practice.

Although traceability is the ultimate goal when it comes to transparency, there are simpler steps you can disclose to your customers in order to become a more transparent fashion brand. 

Here are some tips:

  1. Give precise information about the materials the product is made from.
  2. Inform where you produce & who makes your clothes.
  3. Behind The Scenes of your production: inform about the working conditions of the people that made the clothes (if they have a fair living wage, if gender and racial equality are respected and the working places are safe etc.)
  4. Explain the pricing process of goods: inform about the cost of materials and labor throughout the production process that result in the final price.
  5. Inform about the emissions in every step of production and supply chain (chemical, microplastic, carbon emission and all the steps you are making in lowering emissions).
  6. Inform about your policies regarding the reuse of waste materials or unsold products.

These are some simple practices that you can incorporate into your customer relationship that will benefit both your brand and your customers, ensuring trust. They will be able to make an informed choice and find a brand that meets their needs. Finally, by providing accurate information, you give value to the work of the people that are part of your final product.