27 November 2023 – 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 luxury brand Stella McCartney came out on top for animal welfare, while luxury brands Max Mara, Prada and Hermès were among the brands that failed to deliver.
Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, whose Sydney-based research team led the project with Australia's Good On You, 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 mutilated and slaughtered for fashion each year, the need for the industry to cement animal welfare as a core responsibility is urgent.
While 72% of the selected brands have animal welfare policies, the report found a policy aimed only at the use of certified materials is not enough for brands to ensure excellent standards of animal welfare and reduce the climate impacts of fashion.
Ranny Rustam, Animal Welfare in Textiles Research Lead at FOUR PAWS, says: “While ensuring adequate care of animals used is crucial to any company’s sustainability strategy, 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.”
Gordon Renouf, CEO of Good On You, says: “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.”
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 noticable 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 of animal-derived materials are responsible for up to 70% of the fashion industry’s carbon emissions, helping to fuel the climate crisis.
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.
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, animals in fashion, 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.au