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Report finds room for improvement in Finnish clothing brands' ethics

A new report on the social responsibility of clothing brands found serious problems.

Kiinalaisnaisia tehtaassa töissä.
Human rights violations are rife in the clothing and textile industry. Image: AOP

A report on corporate social responsibility published by ethical trade NGO Eetti found that a majority of Finnish clothing brands rank very low in terms of climate, environmental and human rights transparency.

Eetti advocacy coordinator Maija Lumme said that while some companies fared better than others, every brand could do better.

"Responsible production, especially in countries where job security is low, requires strict measures and metrics to improve working conditions and salaries," Lumme said. "There are also many hurdles to face in minimising the effects of clothing production on climate change."

The Eetti report utilises a set of international criteria maintained by consumer community Rank a Brand, which ranks companies into five categories (A-E) based on how clearly brands include responsibility clauses on their official websites and in their other PR. A total of 23 Finnish clothing brands were ranked against 1,500 other international companies.

Majority in lowest category

The best-ranked Finnish brand in the report was children's clothing company Papu, the only firm to make it into the B category ("On track towards sustainability"). The next category ("On its way, but can do better") included companies Sail&Ski and Vimma. These brands all produce their products either solely in Finland or in some other low-risk countries.

The vast majority of the brands in the report fell into the lowest two categories. Category D ("should do better") included Noom, Lindex, Marimekko, By Pia's, House, Mywear, Nosh and R-Collection. The lowest category, E ("Better put your wallet away"), held Halti, Reima, Nanso, Pola, Peak Performance, Sasta, Gugguu, Luhta, Makia, Rukka, Torstai and Your Face.

Luhta Group is the only company that did not reply to Eetti's contact attempts.

Spurious promises broken

The report is the first of its kind, and so the data cannot be compared with previous findings, said Lumme. She said she finds it heartening and even surprising that most of the companies considered openness and responsibility important, at least on the surface.

What Lumme said is really needed is a corporate social responsibility law that would obligate companies to assess and report on their standards on human rights and climate action.

According to Lumme, more consumers than ever are seeking information on the origin of the products they buy but companies tend to offer misleading promises, thus making it harder for consumers to hold the brands accountable.

"A responsible company must provide accurate information on the measures it is taking to ensure ethical production," Lumme said.

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