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Walmart, Primark Urged by 70K Consumers to Boost Supply Chain Transparency

Transparency has become a key part of the fashion conversation and consumers are demanding major retailers disclose where their garments are made.

On Tuesday, 70,000 consumers signed a petition urging major brands, including Walmart, Primark, Armani, Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters, to share the factories that manufacture their garments and make transparency part of their New Year’s resolutions. The petition follows the #GoTransparent campaign—an initiative led by Clean Clothes Campaign, the Human Rights Watch and the Labor Rights Forum that specifically targeted the five brands for not publicly disclosing details of their supply chains.

“Any brand that refuses to share information about their supply chain should be a huge red flag for consumers,” said Ben Vanpeperstraete of the Clean Clothes Campaign. “What are these brands hiding? If brands are taking the necessary steps to prevent labor abuses in their supply chains, then they should eagerly want to share detailed information about the factories and workers who make their clothes with the public.”

[Read more about supply chain transparency efforts: Welspun India Rolling Out Cotton Tracking System to Advance Transparency]

The #GoTransparent campaign, which introduced a minimum global standard of transparency for the garment sector, called the Apparel and Footwear Supply Chain Transparency Pledge, had 17 brands commit to disclose more information about their suppliers and workers. According to Clean Clothes Campaign, the five aforementioned brands did not commit to the pledge.

To provide further encouragement, activists have said they will start delivering golden boxes filled with the signatures to Armani and Primark stores in Europe this month, with plans to send more boxes to Armani, Forever 21 and Walmart soon.

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Clean Clothes Campaign said the five brands “appeared to be out of sync with the growing trend toward more transparency in the garment industry.” The organization pointed out how other global brands, like Asos and New Look, are taking steps to boost supply chain visibility. Last year, Asos, New Look and other apparel brands committed to #GoTransparent’s “Transparency Pledge,” and made their suppliers and other supply chain components readily available to consumers.

Armani, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters and Walmart did not reply to a request for comment on the campaign, however, Primark released a statement to Sourcing Journal about its transparency efforts.

“We regularly share transparent and detailed information on our supply chain as part of our voluntary commitments to a number of organizations, for example the Bangladesh Accord and the International Labor Organisations’ Better Work program,” Primark said. “We take the issue of transparency seriously, and recognize that there is always more work to be done in ensuring our products are made with respect for workers’ rights and the environment, as well as how we communicate our work in this area.”

The campaign comes on the heels of other transparency efforts, as consumers call for the better treatment of garment workers and more sustainable product production. In December, the U.K. pledged $53 million to combat modern slavery in the garment industry. Last Fall, the U.S. Department of Labor piloted a new supply chain app, where brands can develop robust social compliance systems in their supply chains. On the environmental side, Stella McCartney and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation recently launched a new circularity roadmap for the apparel industry that reduces fashion’s carbon footprint.