ANU Law students help create the largest open data set about apparel sector transparency

Students from The Australian National University (ANU) College of Law have contributed to research in a new report called Apparel 100. The study analyses the largest 100 apparel companies’ supply chain transparency and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) disclosure rates.

ANU College of Law students worked with more than 300 other students and volunteers from 10 universities and 17 NGOs to gather more than 30,000 data points, making Apparel 100 the most extensive open data set about the apparel sector. The project was led by WikiRate, which strives to foster collective awareness on corporate responsibility through an open, editable wiki platform that connects a global community.

With consumers increasingly interested in sustainable fashion, greater attention is being paid to the apparel sector’s environmental impact. For example, “in 2019, internet searches for ‘sustainable fashion’ increased by more than three times compared to 2016″.

Likewise, recently introduced UK and Australian laws compel big companies, including major fashion brands, to report how they are proactively preventing modern slavery in their supply chains. These examples demonstrate an increasing social and political expectation of companies to be transparent about their impacts. Apparel 100 allows users to see how the largest apparel companies are responding to this trend.

Through interactive maps and data visualisations, you can see who the largest 100 companies (by market cap) are and where they are headquartered. You can explore what information they disclose most of (Environmental, Social, or Governance data) and which companies make their supplier lists public.

In summary, it gives a snapshot of efforts made by the apparel industry’s largest companies to disclose information about their own and supply chain operations.

So what does it tell us? While efforts to share data have improved, there is still a long way to go before we have enough data to achieve goals like UN SDGs.

Findings include:

-Nearly a third of the top 100 don’t publish a recent report with sustainability information.
-On average, the top 100 apparel companies share less than half of the key environmental, social and governance indicators, included in WikiRate’s most popular projects.”
-The number of companies reporting their suppliers more than doubled from 10 to 23 between 2017 and 2020.

“We created Apparel 100 because we knew that we could help build one of the fullest data pictures of the apparel sector, in terms of Environmental, Social, and Governance data and supply chain transparency,” said Laureen van Breen, Wikirate managing director.

“There is a large and impressive sustainability community that exists to support improving apparel companies’ impacts, but often research remains in silos, and organisations don’t have enough time or resources to connect the dots between their work.

‘Our community members were vital in bringing this website together. The project shows the power and potential of open data and an active and vibrant community. They have helped to connect the dots to provide a snapshot of how much we already know about the apparel sector and what the gaps are in our collective knowledge of this sector.”

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