BFC unveils DEI audit for fashion industry

The global fashion industry continues to face challenges in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion due to a lack of comprehensive data

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The global fashion industry continues to face challenges in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) due to a lack of comprehensive data. A new initiative in the UK aims to address this issue by introducing a nationwide census.

The British Fashion Council (BFC), which organises London Fashion Week, has partnered with non-profit organisation The Outsiders Perspective and consultancy Fashion Minority Report. Both entities are dedicated to promoting diversity within the industry. Together, they have launched “The Fashion DEI Census.” This voluntary census, accessible through a link on the BFC’s website and distributed to brands and key figures in the industry, is designed to gather demographic information across all job roles, functions, and seniority levels. This ranges from retail workers and freelance stylists to luxury executives. The survey will be open until September 18.

According to Caroline Rush, CEO of the BFC, recent years have demonstrated the potential for industry-wide change, urging a departure from the status quo. The focus on creating an inclusive culture and enhancing DE&I in the workforce, however, has not been adequately prioritised. Rush emphasises that this census is a crucial call for the entire industry to embrace progress.

The survey will encompass questions related to age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, and social mobility. Additionally, it will evaluate individuals’ sense of belonging and their perceptions of their companies’ progress in DE&I. Importantly, the census is open to everyone in the UK fashion industry, not exclusively targeted at minority groups. All responses will remain anonymous. The aim is to engage the entire industry and foster allyship to enhance representation.

Recognising that data is essential for understanding representation issues and devising solutions, experts note that data laws in various markets pose challenges to information collection. In some regions, such as France, data collection on religion, race, and ethnicity is prohibited. In the UK, regulations mandate that such information can only be gathered voluntarily.

According to Jamie Gill, founder of The Outsiders Perspective and chair of the BFC’s diversity and inclusion committee, sporadic data on diversity in British fashion exists but not on an industry-wide level. The census aims to assess the industry’s status and compare it with other available data sources, like the UK census and other industries’ data.

The data collected will contribute to a comprehensive review of DE&I in the UK fashion industry, to be published later this year. This report will outline the additional measures necessary for measurable progress. The goal is to identify best practices and offer recommendations based on the data for positive change and business growth.

Daniel Peters, founder of Fashion Minority Report, emphasises the importance of understanding individuals’ perspectives on DE&I progress within their own companies. Although the survey maintains anonymity, analysing regional trends and identifying potential areas for improvement will be insightful.

Efforts have been made to ensure the survey process and report are accessible and engaging, particularly for those hesitant to share personal information. Peters aims for the report to be both unique and conversational, making it comprehensible and impactful for all participants.

For Gill, understanding the data is directly tied to positioning DE&I as a critical business component. He stresses that while the fashion industry is creative, it’s also a substantial contributor to the economy and holds the power to lead change. Recognising that data is fundamental for understanding business performance, he highlights the importance of knowing the people within the industry. The initiative, therefore, aims to benefit everyone, not just minority groups.