Kmart’s surprising shopping win – as good as David Jones

3 months ago 77

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Kmart, along with Aldi and Target, have matched David Jones on an in-depth new retailer scorecard with Myer and a host of other big names left languishing.


    Discounter Kmart has come up near the top of a leaderboard of Australia’s most ethical and sustainable clothing retailers. can exclusively reveal that the department store, known for its cheap buys, scored a B on the 2021 Ethical Fashion Guide, the same as high-end retailer David Jones.

    Target, which like Kmart is owned by conglomerate Wesfarmers, also did well, as did Aldi. Big W, part of Woolworths, was in the middle of the pack.

    But all performed better than rival Myer while brands such as Billabong, Roxy, Bardot, Jeanswest and Sheike all came bottom of the class with most failing to answer questions on how their clothing was produced and if overseas workers were exploited or paid a living wage.

    However a number of retailers, including Myer, have pushed back at their poor ranking.

    Big names rated from A+ to F on ethical credentials

    The Ethical Sourcing Guide is produced by Baptist World Aid, an international Christian development organisation with a focus on reducing poverty.

    “We’ve seen huge progress in the industry,” said Baptist World Aid project manager Chantelle Mayo who helped produce the survey.

    “But there are huge gaps between the ethical sourcing policies the retailers are putting in place and outcomes for garment workers and that show that business as usual isn’t working”.

    The guide drilled down into the ethical practices of scores of big name stores and brands across Australia and New Zealand.

    Firms were rated on their ethical policies, how well they traced the supply chain, labour standards and the monitoring of factories overseas that produced garments. It looked at whether brands were doing enough about forced labour and fair wages as well as the environmental impact of production.

    “Companies needed a score of more than 50 per cent to get an ‘A’, with ‘B’ just above the average line,” said Ms Mayo.

    “‘C’ is where they’ve made a commitment to improve, and ‘D’ and ‘F’ is where companies either aren’t doing the work, or where they’re not being transparent.”

    Bonds, H&M, Zara, Country Road – top of the ladder

    Retailers that received an A included H&M, Bonds’ owner Hanesbrands, Zara, Kathmandu, Politix, Rodd & Gunn, Country Road and Witchery.

    Only a very few brands got an A+ score including Outland Denim, a company whose jeans became an instant hit when worn by Megan, Duchess of Sussex, when she and Prince Happy toured Australia in 2018.

    “With A+ brands ethical sourcing and sustainability is really part of their brand identity,” said Ms Mayo.

    “Whereas really large businesses that operate ginormous supply chains and have been around for a long time are now having to retroactively improve those chains.”

    Kmart, DJs, Target, ASOS score a B

    Alongside Kmart and David Jones, Cotton On, Uniqlo and Supre scored a B.

    Ms Mayo said it showed that consumers didn’t have to pay top dollar for more ethically sourced clothing.

    “We’re really happy that the really big companies are committing to this area. They realise it’s a priority for consumers, that people want to know the products they buy are made by workers that are safe and happy.

    “But that B grade still means that there are some pretty vast gaps and room for improvement.”

    Big W shared a C grade with the likes of Best & Less, Rivers, Rockmans, Dotti and Peter Alexander. These retailers often talked the talk on ethical sourcing and sustainability, with solid policies, but had less oversight of the nitty gritty of their supply chains.

    “We are proud of the progress we have made in responsible sourcing in the last three years, however we acknowledge there is still more work to be done,” a Big W spokeswoman told

    The chain said it was “committed to protecting and improving working conditions” and would look to improve its ranking next year.

    Myer challenges low ranking

    A Myer spokesman told the store was “perplexed” by its low D score.

    “Myer disagrees with this year’s grades as they fail to accurately reflect our program and the continuous improvements made, with the result also being inconsistent with the results and benchmarking of previous years.”

    The chain said it had a “well established “ethical sourcing program.

    “We will meet with the Baptists to better understand their significant change in evaluation of our sourcing program”.

    There were some notable difference between retailers in the same space. Online retailer ASOS scored a B but Pretty Little Thing and Boohoo could only muster Ds.

    Athleisure giant Lululemon was top of the table with an A but Australian icon Lorna Jane languished with a D.

    In a statement, Lorna Jane told it had chosen not to engage with the organisation and had adopted the Government’s Modern Slavery Statement as a primary reporting method.

    “The D grade we received is a result of not having taken part in the survey.

    “We are focused on continuous improvement and will continue to invest in our ethical sourcing program.”

    This was the result they ended up with’

    Lifestyle clothing label Industrie saw a big fall in its ranking last year going from A to D. Like Lorna Jane, Industrie chose to ignore the survey and it “questioned the methodology”.

    In a statement to Baptist World Aid, Industrie said it “does not accept or recognise this result” which “does not reflect the Industrie ethical sourcing program”.

    Ms Mayo said if a company chose not to engage then it would be judged solely on what information was available – which was often not a lot.

    “We graded Industrie on their public information and, unfortunately, that was the result they ended up.

    “We would really love to know more about them because, in the past, they have been a very highly graded company.”

    Boardriders, which includes surfing brands Quicksilver and Billabong, was one of the most poorly performing firms with a string of its brands not doing better than a F. The company was contacted for comment

    Womenswear retailer Sheike also scored an F. A spokeswoman said it simply didn’t have the resources to take part.

    “We are a family business that is focused on doing the best we can within our commercial constraints. We are not backed by private equity or large conglomerates with deep pockets.

    “While we are not striving to be known as a sustainable fashion brand we certainly are trying to do our part to minimise our impact on the planet.”

    25 per cent admit throwing away clothes after one wear

    Ms Mayo said an emerging issue was A grade companies leading to F grade shoppers.

    Many fast fashion retailers pump out new clothing lines multiple times a year which, the organisation said encouraged consumption and made garment workers’ lives more difficult.

    Baptist World Aid said 25 per cent of people admitted to only wearing some items of clothing once before they chucked them.

    “The guide gives consumers more information to become more ethical shoppers.

    “But it doesn’t mean that because a company gets an A grade you should have a licence to buy as many clothing products as you want from them,” she said

    “We want people to think about why they’re buying – not need to always have the latest clothing and never wear something twice.

    “Because that’s not a super ethical way to consume and it’s going to contribute to more waste in the end.”

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