World’s Leading Apparel Brands Combine Forces To Transform Global Labour Conditions

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — October 21, 2015 — A Social and Labour Convergence Project led by the world’s best known brands, retailers, industry groups and civil society was launched today with the aim of improving working conditions in apparel manufacturing across the world.

The project seeks to achieve real, sustainable change through the collective development of an industry-wide, standardised methodology for social and labour performance assessment in apparel and footwear supply chains. Through this, the industry believes that it will be able to significantly reduce the amount of money that it spends on duplicated auditing and invest the money saved in improving social welfare for millions of people employed in apparel manufacturing around the world.

This collaborative effort is being facilitated by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC). Signatories to the public statement include Nike, H&M, VFc-Timberland, Levi Strauss & Co., PVH Corp., Target, Columbia Sportswear Co. and adidas, standard holding organisation WRAP, the non‐profit supply chain improvement experts SEDEX, NGO Solidaridad, auditing firms Bureau Veritas and SGS, the International Apparel Federation and many others stakeholders at all levels in the value chain. The signatories are keen to attract more supporters to join this collaborative effort.

Baptiste Carriere-Pradal, Vice-President Europe of SAC says: ““The industry, having heard the call from so many different stakeholders is convinced that the time has come to create greater alignment within the industry. We want to check less and act more: This initiative will accelerate a race to the top in social impacts within apparel and footwear manufacturing countries by shifting resources away from redundant and misaligned assessments to performance improvement and enhanced transparency. Convergence is the key to successfully increase transparency and to improve working conditions in global supply chains.”

Tobias Fischer Sustainability Manager H&M: “H&M strongly believes that the sustainability challenges we are facing in the textile supply chain requires joint efforts since all parties have a shared responsibility and have a stake in it. This was one of the key reasons H&M joined SAC as a founding member in 2010. When it comes to the social convergence group, specifically, we acknowledge the challenge to agree on a common standard. However, the industry has changed, the experiences from different initiatives (e.g. Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals, The Accord and Alliance in Bangladesh) show that the industry has taken significant steps forward and are willing to find joint solutions for a common good. H&M is therefore ready to support this project for a common social assessment in the apparel supply chain.”

Marieke Weerdesteijn from Solidaridad comments: “We warmly welcome the convergence project. According to the World Trade Organization, world exports in clothing and textiles reached nearly $800 billion in 2013. It is estimated that more than $1 billion annually is spent on social compliance audits in China alone. There is a lot of redundancy in social auditing. Dramatically reducing the number of audits by using one common assessment would allow for redirecting time and money towards improving working conditions in the apparel sector. The textile sector needs to focus more on continuous improvement rather than compliance.”

“As a company with a pioneering record on labor rights and a long history of industry collaboration, we welcome the opportunity to explore how to support more effective and efficient ways to raise labor standards in the apparel supply chain,” Michael Kobori, VP of Sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co.

Jonathan Ivelaw-Chapman, CEO at Sedex:
“Since the birth of ethical sourcing in the apparel and footwear supply chain more than twenty years ago, there has been a proliferation of differing codes, audits, protocols and approaches as part of company efforts. This duplication and lack of convergence causes issues for the industry, drains suppliers’ resources and makes it difficult to benchmark their efforts. We hope that this new project will help drive convergence and encourage others to join us in this exciting collaboration.”

“Social and labour assessment convergence to get to “one assessment” is an often repeated request of Sedex members, especially manufacturers, which is why Sedex is delighted to be a part of this new project.”

The initiative, which follows the implementation of a successful framework on environment by the SAC, seeks to provide an answer to calls from the European Commission, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and a number of European countries for a standardised, global approach.

Spokespeople from signatories including SAC, H&M, Levi Strauss & Co., Solidaridad and Columbia are available for interview on why they believe that the new framework is important and the benefits that it will have for both their businesses and apparel manufactures globally.

Posted October 26, 2015

Source: Sustainable Apparel Coalition