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Global Labor Standard Could Cut Compliance Costs as Soon as Next Year

New apparel sector players have signed on to get an industry-wide, standardized method for assessing social and labor compliance in place. With the standard, compliance costs could come down considerably.

The Social and Labor Convergence Project (SLCP) was launched in late 2015 to help streamline the processes for measuring labor conditions—making the overall industry more efficient—and to eliminate at least some of the excessive costs that come with it. The projected is facilitated by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), but has its independent multi-stakeholder governance.

Now, more than 100 brands and organizations, including newly joined Lululemon and the American Apparel and Footwear Association, have signed onto the initiative and the framework will be piloted this month.

The idea behind the framework is that it will replace individual solutions to compliance testing, which force factories serving multiple clients to do audit after audit to meet each unique set of compliance requirements, though in reality they’re answering the same questions each time. With the SLCP there would be one standard-agnostic tool and method for collecting data on issues like child and forced labor, occupational health and safety, and wages. This would leave each brand or standard holder to make its own judgement on what is acceptable (compliant) or not.

Organizations that participate would be able to avoid audit duplication and improve overall supply chain transparency and measure continuous improvement. What’s more, according to SLCP, the framework would allow companies to put their freed-up compliance spend toward improving social and labor conditions in the places where they source.

“Leading apparel, textile and footwear companies recognize the need for greater efficiency when it comes to creating standard measures around key labor issues,” said Janet Mensink, director of the Social and Labor Convergence Project. “By aligning around a shared framework, we’re able to collectively accelerate the social impacts and sustained improvements to working conditions in the apparel and footwear industries.”

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Companies like H&M, Gap, VF Corp, G-Star, Arvind Mills, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Intertek, SGS and WRAP have already signed on to the initiative.

“We are on track with our aggressive two-year timeline and I am extremely optimistic about the direction of the SLCP,” said Colleen Vien, sustainability director at VF Corp/Timberland, and member of the SLCP Steering Committee. “Our progress is a clear demonstration of what’s possible when all the stakeholders involved share a common vision, and don’t get distracted by individual agendas.”

The first version of the framework has already been developed and is currently under review by the signatories, and the pilot is expected to be up this month. SLCP said the tool and verification methodology will be finalized and ready for use by the first quarter of 2018.