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Industry Groups Align to Reduce Audit Fatigue

The International Textile Manufacturers Federation (ITMF) and the International Apparel Federation (IAF) have unveiled an initiative to reduce audit and standards fatigue.

During a side session organized by the Organization of Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) Forum on “Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector” held online last week, the two organizations unveiled the Standards Convergence Initiative (SCI) to serve as a global industrywide platform to discuss and develop a strategy, as well as the tools to accelerate the reduction of audit and standard fatigue in the clothing and textile industries.

The auditing conduct of standard holders, along with brands, retailers and other buyers’ decisions, determines if the industries are moving firmly in the direction of less unnecessary overlap of audits and standards, the ITMF and IAF said.

As a result, one of the first steps of the SCI, in collaboration with the International Trade Center (ITC), is to create transparency in the conduct of the main standard holders, brands and retailers and third party standard holders, measuring to what extent they are contributing to the reduction of audit and standard fatigue.

The SCI has identified four criteria to use as a measure to judge standard holders’ commitment to reduce audit and standard fatigue. They are: willingness to harmonize standards, compliance with OECD and ILO guidelines, the use of existing platform to avoid audit duplication, and global certification of auditors.

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The four criteria will provide a foundation for a structural monitoring of standard holders’ efforts to reduce audit and standard fatigue that will be carried out by ITC. During the session at the OECD Forum, the ITC explained how its Standards Map Database will be used to measure and monitor standard convergence in the industry. First results of the monitoring are expected in the third quarter of 2021.

In addition to this monitoring exercise, the SCI will actively foster collaboration between different actors that are each working on a partial solution. Since large brands and retailers sticking to their own standards block the reduction of standard fatigue, the SCI will also continuously call on them to either drop their proprietary standards in favor of third party standards or to collaborate in other ways that observably reduce audit and standard fatigue.

The IAF is a federation for apparel manufacturers, brands, their associations and the supporting industry. IAF’s membership now includes apparel associations and companies from more than 40 countries, a membership that directly and indirectly represents over a 100,000 companies and more than  20 million employees.

The ITMF is an international forum for the world’s textile industries.