In case it wasn’t already abundantly clear to you: Forced labor is a terrible, terrible thing. It’s also an issue that plagues the apparel industry, which is a high-risk sector according to U.N. agency the International Labour Organization.
Which is why, despite the fact that most people would prefer their clothes to come from companies that don’t have forced labor anywhere in their supply chains, the problem persists. And while transparency is an ongoing issue—due to practices like subcontracting, even some brands don’t know exactly where their apparel is coming from, much less end consumers—a recent study by an accountability initiative called KnowTheChain has helped shed some light on matter.
Using a range of indicators like auditing processes, worker recruitment and labor rights, information provided by the brands, and data available on public platforms, KnowTheChain ranked 20 apparel companies for their safeguards against slave labor, and three of the top companies were Adidas, The Gap, and H&M.
With a perfect score being 100, Adidas was given an 81, Gap a 77, and H&M a 69, which is encouraging considering H&M’s not-so-great track record in terms of environmental footprint. “Top-ranking brands like Adidas and Gap have listened to workers and activists in their supply chains,” Phil Bloomer, executive director of the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, told The Guardian about the findings. “Their scores in this ranking show it is commercially viable and ethically imperative to seek to eliminate modern slavery in supply chains.”
And while that is positive news, the picture still isn’t all roses and sunshine, even for the companies that scored high on the list. For one thing, none of the brands fared well in terms of worker recruitment and rights. And many of the brands had no practices in place for workers to air grievances or form unions.