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Fashion Follows Trends: Animal Protection Still Not a Mainstream Piece

FOUR PAWS analysis of 100 major brands exposes critical gaps and poor performers in animal welfare

27.11.2023

Vienna, 27 November 2023 – The third edition of FOUR PAWS’s Animal Welfare in Fashion report in collaboration with Good on You has been published today. 100 international companies were assessed and rated regarding their policies and commitments to improve animal welfare and reduce the use of animal-derived-materials (ADMs).

The report covers brands across nine market segments, including sports and fast fashion brands such as Nike and Zara. Of brands that use any animal-derived materials, outdoor brand Patagonia and high fashion pioneer Stella McCartney came out on top for animal welfare. Luxury brands were the laggards, with Max Mara, Prada and Hermès among the brands that failed to deliver most.

Animal Welfare  in Fashion 2023

Animal Welfare in Fashion 2023

Towards a truly ethical and transparent fashion industry

Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS welcomes the progress by higher scoring brands but is critical of the lack of meaningful action from most brands. Considering that over five billion animals are used for fashion each year, having their welfare as a top priority for fashion companies must become a new trend.

While 72% of the selected brands have animal welfare policies, many lacked real impact for animals. The report also highlighted that a policy aimed only at the use of certified materials is not enough for brands to ensure excellent standards of animal welfare.

Ranny Rustam, Animal Welfare in Textiles Research Lead at FOUR PAWS, says: “While ensuring adequate care of animals used is crucial to any claims of responsible business, brands are still generally washing their hands of animals’ needs, while others attempt to ‘welfare-wash’ over consumer concerns.

Thankfully some companies are increasingly demonstrating leadership in animal welfare, and our research in 2023 does bring some hope – but a monumental step forward by the industry is needed before consumers can start to feel confident about the welfare of animals used to make their cosy knits and down jackets.”

“The key finding here is, an increasing number of brands are being incentivised to put ethics and sustainability at the heart of their business, thanks to consumers who are using their power to push the industry forward.”

Gordon Renouf, CEO of Good On You

More kindness through refinement of materials

While certification rates for the world’s supply of mohair (27%) and cashmere (7%) are on the rise, certified wool and down make up less than 5% of the global supply. While animal welfare certifications can help to mitigate the risks of one or more cruel practices in certified supply chains, e.g. mulesing in wool production and live plucking in down and feather production, most certifications are currently lacking in requirements which are crucial to animals’ overall positive welfare state.

Rustam: “Using animal welfare certifications are a key way to ensure that the animal material supply chain is adequately traced, and in most cases the best way to ensure minimum animal welfare standards are met. This is the absolute minimum a brand should be doing. While 61% of rated brands are using at least one type of certified ADM, very few brands (9%) have a majority of their supply chains certified.”

Underneath it all lies severe risks of public health and climate issues

The commercial exploitation and trade of wild animals brings incalculable risks to public health. Yet 18% of brands were found to still have used materials derived from wild animals. However, a noticeable decline in fur production and consumption is visible throughout the last years, resulting in three out of seven brands that used fur in 2021, going fur-free by now.

Moreover, the report also noted material production and processing are responsible for up to 70% of the fashion industry’s carbon emissions, helping to fuel the climate crisis. Considering materials from ruminants such as sheep and cows are inherently high emitters of GHGs, reducing their usage is a key way for brands to drastically reduce the environmental impacts associated with their material choices.

Rustam: “Having a clear vision, backed by measurable and time-bound goals, should guide brands in their commitment to refine, reduce, and replace the use of their materials. This involves certifying ADMs to recycled or welfare standards, lowering reliance on such materials, and investing in innovative alternatives. To achieve this, brands can collaborate with innovators to overcome adoption barriers and promote scalability, for a kinder and environmentally conscious future.”

END

Background

A sample of 100 fashion brands originating from 15 countries were assessed for this report. Our sample provides representation across 9 fashion market segments – luxury, sports, outdoor, online or ’digital-first’ retailers, supermarket / chain retailers, department store retailers, mid-point / premium, fast fashion, and sustainability champions.

The brands selected may be considered leading brands on a global scale and/or in their respective country markets and may have international reach in their respective market segments. The largest brands were chosen from a variety of independent sources, including Fashion United Top 100, the Lyst Index, Deloitte Global Powers of Retailing and Financial Times Top 100 Global Brands.

Introducing the PAWSome Fashion Awards, the report highlights UK brands Stella McCartney (Most Transparent PAWSome Brand) and Missguided (Most Improved PAWSome Brand), Dutch brand G-Star RAW (Most Committed PAWSome Brand), US brand Another Tomorrow (Animal Welfare Pioneer PAWSome Brand) and Swiss brand NIKIN (Top Scoring PAWSome Brand) for their notable progress in animal welfare.  

Methodology

Good On You is the world’s leading sustainability ratings platform for fashion and is a leader in the movement for a more transparent, ethical, and sustainable fashion industry. Since 2015, they have rated thousands of brands’ impact on the planet, people, and animals using their robust rating methodology.

Each brand receives an individual rating for its performance in each of the three areas. Brands also receive an overall rating, which considers the aggregated data across the three key areas. 

Good On You ratings are used by consumers around the world to learn how their favourite brands rate on the issues they care about and to discover new sustainable fashion brands and products. On the Good On You app, brands are allocated one of five easy-to-understand ratings.

For the purposes of this report, we are only concerned with brand performance based on the ‘animals’ section of the Good On You rating system. Brands that are rated on their performance in animal welfare use one or more animal-derived materials, including ‘conventional’ animal-derived materials (wool, leather, down, cashmere, alpaca, and mohair), and ‘higher risk’ materials (angora wool and wild animal materials including fur, exotic skins, and decorative feathers).

In this report, we refer to the ‘animals’ score as a percentage out of 100. However, it should be noted that ratings in the Good On You app correspond with a score out of five categories.

Brand Rating as it appears on the Good On You app Scoring range (%) 
Great90-100
Good75-89
It’s a Start60-74
Not Good Enough20-59
We Avoid (Very Poor)0-19
Rescued sheep at Farm Animal Sanctuary

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Michael Kellner

Michael Kellner

PR International Officer

Michael.Kellner@four-paws.org

+43 (1) 89 50 20 20

+43 (0) 664 504 38 97

VIER PFOTEN International 
Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna, Austria

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org

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