Fund managers are a secret weapon in the fashion revolution – here’s why

Written by Matthew Coppin on 11th May 2017

This article was written by Matt Coppin, financial advice executive at our #MakeMyMoneyGood promotion partner, Castlefield

Fashion Revolution Week is now officially over, but the work continues. The global movement, brought together following the anniversary of the Rana Plaza disaster, aims to create greater transparency, sustainability and ethics in the fashion industry.

The campaign wants to unite the fashion industry and ignite a revolution to radically change the way our clothes are sourced, produced and purchased, so that what the world wears has been made in a safe, clean and fair way.

The hashtag #whomademyclothes has been used throughout to get involved with the project, and is still being used on an ongoing basis by tens of thousands of people.

With information, it is possible to make a difference with your money either through buying or investing.

The potential for consumers and investors to make a difference is profound. With transparency and information comes power, so the team at Fashion Revolution have created a Transparency Index for 2017, which highlight some of the key issues involved. It is then possible to start asking questions of brands and organisations, such as who made my clothes? And what is being done to improve practices throughout the supply chain?

With information, it is possible to make a difference with your money either through buying or investing. In the personal finance or investment space a word often used is “engagement”; whether that is engagement with the client to determine their aspirations and values or with organisations to understand and develop practices so they are more sustainable, environmentally friendly and have the potential to improve working standards.

In this instance the team at LionTrust Investments (formerly Alliance Trust) have been involved in such a project. Following the tragic events in Rana Plaza four years ago, a team from the investment manager along with a collection of NGOs, charitable organisations and worldwide investors visited the area to understand first hand what had occurred and to see how they could make a difference.

Neil Brown of the Sustainable Futures equity team says: “We walked the factory floors and spoke to factory owners to understand the issues that were faced. We held a week of meetings up and down the supply chain, not as auditors but to try and improve the system”.

One of many outcomes is that they have helped to sign up more organisations to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety, which were previously slowly taken up.

The impact of investment and engagement to create change is clear; better health and safety practices for workers, which has the added advantage of also making good business sense.

Although the centre piece of this article is the Fashion Revolution and their work within the fashion industry, it is far more wide reaching than that.

Other fund managers including the aforementioned work to engage with the companies they invest in and work on wider outreach programmes into a variety of different industries themselves. WHEB, a sustainability impact fund manager, for example, publishes its engagement work on a regular basis so investors and any stakeholder can see what work they do. Castlefield Investment Partners also publishes its annual Stewardship Report on their activities and how they have acted when it comes to voting as shareholders on a client’s behalf.

As the funds get bigger and the demand for this type of investment grows, it allows more influence to be exerted and with the right partnership, it can help make positive changes for the future. It creates an environment of acting responsibly which can spread far and wide – other companies directly and indirectly involved can see the outcomes and improvements that can be made.

Here again we can see transparency is key, whether that is the distribution of clear information for clients and shareholders or responding to information requests from campaign groups such as the Fashion Revolution.

The outputs can then help the consumer or investor make the best decisions in line with their objectives and align these with their values and aspirations. By getting involved and asking questions the potential to insight change is boundless and there is definitely much more that can be done. To continue the discussions on the Fashion Revolution or get involved, visit the website or find them on twitter to find out more.

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