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11 Jan 2024

2023 KnowTheChain Apparel & Footwear Benchmark

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The global apparel and footwear industry is one of the biggest in the world, generating more than US$1.5 trillion in sales in 2022 and employing over 60 million workers in the textiles, clothing, leather and footwear industries in Asia alone. As a sector heavily reliant on both natural and human resources, its potential for human rights advancement is enormous – decent work, living wages and gender equality should all contribute to a shared prosperity in companies’ operations and supply chains. Equally, the potential harm is as significant as the profits the fashion industry generates.

This year’s KnowTheChain findings demonstrate how – in the face of multiple global crises exacerbating these risks – apparel and footwear companies remained largely reactive to human rights violations, rather than evidencing robust, embedded human rights and environmental due diligence practices designed to prevent abuse. Despite these violations being endemic to the sector, companies routinely failed to provide and disclose remedy to those whose rights were infringed – even as the most illustrious of benchmarked brands continued to post remarkable revenue growth.

Key findings include:

  • There is a significant gap between the efforts of the average company in the sector, scoring (21/100) and the highest-scoring company (63/100). While only three companies scored above 50/100, over 20% of companies scored just 5/100 or less.
  • Companies benchmarked since 2016 performed significantly better, on average, than those assessed for the first time this year.
  • Companies scored lowest on the themes of Purchasing Practices (12/100) and Remedy (7/100). On the theme of Recruitment, which is a vital tool to preventing and remedying risks to migrant workers, companies scored an average of 14/100.
  • Less than a quarter (22%) of companies disclosed engaging with local or global unions to improve freedom of association in their supply chains – a critical measure to uphold decent work and prevent labour rights abuses.
  • Despite allegations of forced labour identified in the supply chains of almost half of benchmarked companies, only 22% disclosed an example of remedy outcomes for workers in their supply chains.
  • More than three quarters of benchmarked companies (77%) source from at least one country at high-risk of forced labour (Argentina, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Ethiopia, India, Malaysia, Nepal, North Korea, Thailand, Vietnam), yet only 8% of companies disclosed detail on forced labour risks identified across supply chain tiers. This suggests at best a lack of transparency, and at worst a failure in robust due diligence that goes beyond the first tier.

2023 Ranking

Explore the ranking, company scorecards and more


Full report

Read the full benchmark findings report to learn more about the detailed findings of the benchmark including trends in the sector

Investor briefing

Learn more about risks in the sector and read our recommendations for investors

Explore our findings by region, subsector and theme

KnowTheChain’s 2023 Apparel & Footwear Benchmark assesses the efforts of 65 of the largest apparel and footwear companies to address forced labour in their supply chains. Explore the findings by region, subsector and theme.