Tearfund’s ethical fashion research turns up the heat on footwear

While New Zealand’s clothing industry has come under scrutiny leading to positive changes, shoemakers have flown under the radar. This year, Tearfund New Zealand ranked 25 top shoe companies representing over 90 brands for their efforts to tackle worker exploitation and environmental impact in their supply chains. Launched today by Tearfund, the feature article ‘Footwear: An Industry Laced with Exploitation’ dives into the problems of the footwear industry and reveals how companies scored out of 100.

The highest score was Adidas with 58.30%, while four companies, Nine West, Novo Shoes, Windsor Smith and Ngahuia Group (Hannahs, Number 1 Shoes), tied for the lowest place, with a score of 0%.

Overland Footwear (Mi Piaci, Merchant 1948, Deuce) received 12.82%

Ngahuia Group (Hannahs, Number 1 Shoes) got 0%

Allbirds scored 26.72%, just above the overall average of 22.72%

The message for Aotearoa New Zealand is clear: New Zealand’s two largest shoe companies need to be more transparent about their efforts to protect workers and the environment. While Kiwi, co-founder of Allbirds, is known as a key player in sustainable footwear, its low score is due to the company’s lack of transparency regarding its factories, wages and working conditions.

Morgan Theakston, Advocacy Specialist at Tearfund, says: “Maybe they’re doing well behind closed doors, but since the majority of fashion supply chain workers don’t earn enough to meet their basic needs, transparency around factories and salaries must be the norm. True sustainability must include sustainable wages for the people who make our shoes.

The article reveals that no shoe company can prove they pay a living wage and few have a public commitment to working for a living wage. Paying a living wage is consistently the worst performing area in research, but it is the change that would have the greatest impact on improving the lives of workers.

“The fashion industry’s chronically low wages trap workers and their families in a cycle of poverty. This creates desperation, which increases vulnerability to exploitative conditions, such as forced labor, trafficking and modern slavery,” says Theakston.

The article also reveals that the global footwear industry is creating serious problems for the planet. Despite industry’s contribution to 1.4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, only 20% of companies have published an emissions reduction target and decarbonization strategy in line with the current Industry Charter. UN fashion for climate action.

The research also exposes the industry’s responsibility for significant chemical pollution of the air and waterways, highlighting that the leather industry is one of the most toxic industries in the world due to its contribution to the exponential increase in cancers, respiratory diseases, skin conditions and genetic disorders. .

Waste from overproduction is another big problem. “The volume of shoes produced is not sustainable. We buy too many shoes and fast fashion companies make even more shoes than we can afford, causing waste and encouraging the idea that shoes are disposable as soon as trends change,” says Theakston.

Our research showed that 64% of companies did not address the impacts of their shoes after leaving the store. Overland Footwear is the only company that has effectively tackled the impacts of overproduction.

Commenting on this year’s weak results, Theakston said, “I really wish we had a positive story to tell, but this year we don’t. However, we hope that will change. We have lobbied the garment industry for years and we have seen progress. With such low scores, it seems shoe manufacturers have only just begun to adopt the best practices we’ve come to expect in the apparel industry, but from our conversations with them, it’s clear that many are interested, able and willing to act. We hope this research will become a catalyst for meaningful change in the New Zealand footwear industry.

Tearfund believes the most ethical and sustainable shoe collection is the one you already own and urges Kiwis to follow the five Rs: reduce, rewear, repair, reinstall and raise your voice.

“Shoes: an exploitative industry (+ how to walk lighter for people and the planet)” can be read at tearfund.org.nz/ethicalfashion.

About Tearfund

We are Tearfund, a faith-based New Zealand relief and development organisation. Our faith is visible. She acts, she speaks and she stands by those in need. With our partners on the ground and supporters at home, we sponsor children, restore, nourish and empower communities in need, and protect vulnerable people from exploitation. We take action and advocate against injustice and poverty overseas and call on New Zealanders to do the same. Assistance and care are always provided without bias or prejudice of race, religion, caste, class, political beliefs or gender. And we’ve been doing it for over forty years. www.tearfund.org.nz

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James T. Quintero