More than half of the apparel companies analysed scored less than 20 per cent in a new report which assesses leading brands on human rights issues in their businesses and supply chains. A total of 28 apparel companies, out of 53, scored less than 20 per cent in the 2019 Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) with only seven scoring more than 50 per cent. Only one brand – Adidas – was classed in the top band of firms scoring 80-90 per cent, Marks & Spencer was in the 70-80 per cent band, Zara owners Inditex made the 60-70 per cent group, while companies scoring 50-60 per cent included The Gap Inc, VF, Hanesbrands and Hennes & Mauritz.
At the bottom of the league table, Falabella, Salvatore Ferragamo, Page Industries, ANTA Sports Products, LPP, Ross Stores, Foot Locker, Shenzhou International, Heilan Home, Youngor and Zhejian Semir Garment all scored 0-10 per cent.
And in the next lowest category, with a score of 10-20 per cent were LVMH, Amazon, Nordstrom, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Macy’s, Yue Yuen, L Brands, Price, TJX Companies, Tapestry, Capri Holdings, Hermes International, Carter’s, Skechers and Kohl’s.
CHRB, a London-based not-for-profit, assesses 200 of the largest publicly traded companies in the world – in four industry sectors: agricultural products, apparel, extractives and ICT manufacturing, on a set of human rights indicators each year.
It said the lack of improvement of many companies since the last report, and low scores for most of the companies benchmarked for the first time, highlighted the need for urgent action. Companies were assessed across six themes – governance and policy commitments; embedding respect and human rights due diligence; remedies and grievance mechanisms; performance on company human rights practices; performance on responses to serious allegations; and transparency.
More than half scored less than 20 percent and only one in 10 companies scored more than 50 percent, indicating poor levels of implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) by the vast majority, according to the CHRB. The report said human rights due diligence was a key weakness for most companies. Companies scored only 21 per cent on average in this area, while 49 per cent of companies scored zero.
There were, however, some grounds for encouragement. For the first time, the 0-10 per cent band was not the most populated and some brands, including Uniqlo owners Fast Retailing, had improved by more than 30 percentage points since 2017.
Steve Waygood, Chair of the CHRB and Chief Responsible Investment Officer with Aviva Investors, commented, “Our rankings show some leading companies demonstrating that action on human rights is possible within a competitive environment.
“But far too many low scoring companies have not changed their practices at all. CHRB is calling for a rapid acceleration in the uptake of human rights due diligence to ensure companies respect human rights. States and investors also have a key role and they should use this data to motivate companies to rapidly improve.”
Phil Bloomer, Executive Director of the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre and board member of the CHRB, said: “The CHRB scores reflect the market failures around human rights where some companies rely on business models and practices that abuse people’s rights and avoid scrutiny and accountability.
“This latest data shows welcome improvements from many, but the majority are not moving fast enough toward respecting human rights. States have a duty to protect people from corporate abuse and while recent measures to improve human rights due diligence are welcome, more needs to be done to make respect for human rights ‘business as usual’.”