January 01, 2018
Statement endorsed by 147 investors representing $3.7 trillion appeals to global brands to recommit to three-year extension to fulfill Accord’s mandate to remediate fire and safety violations in apparel sector.
Members of the Bangladesh Investor Initiative issued a statement today calling on companies sourcing from the Bangladesh apparel sector to renew their commitment to protect worker health and safety by endorsing the three-year extension of the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh (Accord).
The investors, including Seventh Generation Interfaith Coalition for Responsible Investment and its members, say additional time is needed to complete the remediation plans and worker training indicated by audits at the over 1,600 factories covered by the Accord. The statement will accompany letters being sent to the 160 companies that have not yet become signatories to the three-year extension of the Accord, urging them to participate.
The investors are part of the Bangladesh Investor Initiative organized by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility to press brands and retailers sourcing in Bangladesh to join the Accord and remediate human rights risks in their supply chains. The statement was endorsed by 147 institutional investors that collectively represent $3.7 trillion in managed assets.
Said Henrike Kulmann of Allianz Global Investors GmbH, “The new agreement between global trade unions and companies ensures that the industry continues to remediate safety issues found in garment factories and build effective worker safety committees. They are an important component to mitigating risks to workers and supply chain disruption as well as reputational risks to global brands sourcing in Bangladesh. We call on all companies sourcing from Bangladesh to become Accord signatories to mitigate these serious human rights and business risks.”
For the 1,600 factories have been inspected under the Accord, 82 percent of the identified safety issues have been fixed, the majority of them electrical. “Investors have been particularly pleased to see that, in addition to fixing specific problems, the Accord has worked to address the systemic issues that led to disasters like Rana Plaza,” said Lauren Compere of Boston Common Asset Management, “It is critical to ensure that future safety problems are detected before they become life-threatening events. The detailed comprehensive work achieved by the Accord is a positive signal to investors that safety risks are being carefully and sustainably managed.”
The investor statement recommends brands undertake the following:
“To date, only 60 of the 220 signatories of the Accord have signed the new agreement to extend the program until May 2021,” stated David Schilling, senior program director of ICCR. “While much has been achieved in making garment factories in Bangladesh safer, there is more to be done, including the establishment of worker safety committees in each factory. The success of the Accord to date is built on the unprecedented collective action of brands and trade unions. Continued solidarity is needed to finish the job and prevent hard-earned gains from disappearing.”
June 06, 2017
We know that zero transparency results in zero accountability in supply chains. Dispersed global supplies chains, without transparency, facilitates passing the buck on the human rights and worker safety.
Fashion Revolution, an organization born, like The Human Thread, after the Rana Plaza disaster, is doing great work in popularizing concern about human rights and worker safety in the garment industry. Recently, Fashion Revolution released its “Fashion Transparency Index 2017,” which reviews and ranks 100 of the biggest global fashion and apparel brands and retailers according to how much information they disclose about their suppliers, supply chain policies and practices, and social and environmental impact. This tool is a useful assessment of how various brands are doing.
You can view the document here.
April 04, 2017
One of the regular questions we hear at The Human Thread is: “What can I do to buy better?” Generally, people are looking for a short and simple answer like “Don’t buy from this store, but buy from here” or “Don’t buy from this country, but buy from here” or “Use this handy guide” or “Buy only from second-hand shops.” Frankly, ethical purchasing is hard work, and there are no easy solutions.
Nonetheless, there are helpful tools. On this website, we occasionally share scorecards (like The Truth Behind the Barcode: Apparel Industry Trends) and fair trade guides for Milwaukee and Chicago. We share global evaluation’s like Know the Chain’s Apparel & Footwear Benchmark Findings Report. These guides, if the methodology was rigorous were valid during the research, but the passing of time naturally makes the data less accurate. We love Catholic Relief Services’ resource for Ethical Trade. (We have written more about it here.) Project Just has lots of great resources, including “Five questions to figure out which brands are legit.” Smart phones now have apps that help with ethical purchasing, like Good on You and Not My Style. If updated regularly, a cell phone app may provide more current data.
We’d love to hear from our readers about what you use to help guide your purchases. Feel free to post on the the thread in our Facebook page here:
December 12, 2016
While every scorecard comes with a caveat that none are perfect, we here at The Human Thread think that this scorecard is very important. Know The Chain, a San Francisco-based company that works with businesses and investors (including the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility) on issues of labor abuse, ranked 20 large apparel and footwear companies based on their efforts to eradicate forced labor and human trafficking from their supply chains.
This study shines light on the apparel brands that are making the greatest efforts to address exploitation. On topm footwear giant Adidas scored 81 points out of 100. Among apparel companies, Gap Inc. leads the way, scoring 77 points out of 100. Swedish fast fashion behemoth H & M and Canadian athletic apparel retailer Lululemon tied for third on the list, both scoring 69 points.
The rankings employed a sophisticated methodology of seven areas of measurement. The average score was 46 out of a possible 100. Sadly, luxury brands including Hugo Boss, Kering (holding company of Gucci, among others) and Ralph Lauren scored much lower than fast fashion retailers like H&M, Inditex or Primark. Three companies scored less than 25 out of 100 points: China’s number-one shoe retailer Belle International Holdings (0), Chinese clothing manufacturer Shenzhou International Group Holdings (1), and Prada (9).
Two areas of particular concerns are under the study’s headings of “Recruitment” and “Worker Voice and Remedy.” On the latter topic, the rankings also underscore that only four companies on the survey were rated as efficiently magnifying worker’s voices to upper management, and only five companies were found to engage workers outside of the context of their workplace in a manner that gives them more voice.
In the area of “Recuitment,” a place of major risk in forced labor and trafficking, companies fall short in their recruitment practices. Only six companies require that no fees be charged during any recruitment process conducted throughout the supply chain, and only two companies encourage direct hiring of workers in their supply chains. Poor recruitment practices, including excessive fees, leave workers vulnerable and open to exploitation, particularly through debt bondage.
The report suggests that these fundamental areas that leave workers vulnerable have yet to be addresses in significant ways by the retailers.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), around 21 million people are victims of forced labor globally, with the apparel and footwear industry an ‘at-risk’ sector, especially as it is a rapidly growing field of employment. While in 2000 the global garment industry employed around 20 million workers, this has at least tripled to 60- 75 million workers in 2014, three-quarters of whom are women.
Again, recalling the caveat that no scorecard is perfect, Know The Chain based the study on “assessed information available on each company’s own website, as well as additional public disclosure that 80% of the companies provided in response to engagement questions.” The information used to compile each company’s rank was self-supplied by the companies that were ranked. Thus, the reliability – or lack thereof – of the information provided by the ranked companies is a critical factor in terms of gauging the ranking’s accuracy.
The complete report can be found here: http://www.humanthreadcampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/KTC_AF_ExternalReport_Final.pdf