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Garment, Footwear Supply Chains Becoming More Transparent

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A growing number of garment and footwear manufacturers are disclosing information about their supply chains, according to a report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Dec. 18.

From 2016 to 2019, the number of companies who publish information on their tier-1 factories – those “involved in assembling, embellishing and finishing their goods” – has increased threefold.

Such disclosures involve publishing online the name, address and parent company of the factories involved in making products, as well as information about the items manufactured and the number of workers employed.

The HRW report is published as part of the ongoing work by a coalition formed in 2016 to advocate for more transparency in garment and footwear manufacturing.

It created a “Transparency Pledge” that companies are encouraged to sign as a show of commitment to making public details regarding their supply chain.

Of the 72 companies the coalition contacted in 2016 regarding the pledge, 22 have fully aligned with the pledge requirements (or have committed to doing so), while 29 have published the name and address of their tier-1 factories, two have published their factory names and countries, and one has committed to publish factory names and countries.

The remaining 18 companies have not made any formal commitments to the pledge or disclosed their supply chains as of the report’s publication.

“In addition, as of November 2019, 17 other companies that are not among the 72 counted above are already publishing their supplier factories list in full alignment with the Transparency Pledge standard or have committed to do so by 2020,” the report noted.

Mixed results have been seen among the seven well-known responsible business initiatives across the world regarding concrete initiatives to increase transparency among their members.

These initiatives are voluntary associations formed by apparel companies to emphasize ethical business practices, which the report explained have an important role to play in urging or requiring members to become more transparent.

The report found that some responsible business initiatives, like the Fair Labor Association, have made substantive changes to increase transparency by requiring members to align themselves with the transparency pledge.

Others, like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, have not made membership contingent on supply-chain transparency.

While lauding the overall progress, the report emphasized that “accelerating the pace at which companies adopt supply chain transparency is critical to making it an industry norm.”

The full report is available here.