Beyond listing the country where a garment was made, there's very little regulation requiring fashion companies to disclose much about their supply chains to customers. (And even that "Made in" label can be misleading, as a garment composed of Chinese fabric, dyed in China and sewed in a Chinese factory can be declared "Made in Italy" if it had finishing touches — like buttons — added in Rome.)
That's a problem because it's hard to hold brands accountable for ethics violations in their supply chains if those supply chains are completely opaque. Which is why it's such a big deal that H&M announced a plan on Tuesday to start sharing more specific details about individual suppliers for each garment it sells.
"By being open and transparent about where our products are made we hope to set the bar for our industry and encourage customers to make more sustainable choices. With transparency comes responsibility, making transparency such an important factor to help create a more sustainable fashion industry," Head of Sustainability at H&M Isak Roth said in a release.
Starting Tuesday, customers will be able to find out "production country, supplier names, factory names and addresses as well as the number of workers in the factories," according to the release, for each piece of H&M clothing sold on the brand's website. If shopping in person, customers can use the H&M app to scan price tags to gain access to the same information.
While it's worth noting that transparency in and of itself doesn't magically make a brand's supply chains sustainable, it does make possible a kind of public accountability that can hold real power. After all, if a factory gets exposed in the news for its use of child labor, it's a lot harder for a brand to avoid culpability if thousands of customers saw that factory named in connection with something they bought from the retailer last week.
"We are so proud to be the first global fashion retailer of our size and scale to launch this level of product transparency. We want to show the world that this is possible," said Roth.