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Global Map of Apparel Factories Boosts Supply-Chain Transparency

A free open-source tool designed to improve transparency in the global garment industry is officially live following improvements made in the wake of its soft beta launch in October.

Funded by C&A Foundation, but not “owned” by any single organization, the Open Apparel Registry (OAR) seeks to shine a light on notoriously opaque supply chains by identifying the names, addresses and affiliations of more than 10,000 factories and mills around the world.

Users are able to tap into the OAR to update and standardize facility names and addresses, research the affiliations of current and prospective facilities to identify opportunities for collaboration or find potential new suppliers based on their credentials.

“This groundbreaking initiative is the first to share, free of charge, important industry data across brands, retailers, manufacturers, multi-stakeholder initiatives and civil society,” Leslie Johnston, executive director at C&A Foundation, said in a statement. “By doing so, the OAR accelerates collaboration within the apparel industry and contributes to a new paradigm of open data, which we believe is critical to making fashion a force for good.”

The OAR, which bills itself as a “neutral, non-profit organization,” is run by a multi-stakeholder board of directors, including Rola Abimourched from the Workers Rights Consortium, Abhishek Bansal from Arvind, Frank Michel from ZDHC Foundation and Sara Sticha from Target. It pulls its data from multiple, disparate sources, such as datasets from multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs), brand and retailer supplier lists, facilities and factory groups, service providers and government databases. Each factory and mill is tagged with a unique OAR ID for ease of tracking.

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As part of its development, the OAR team conducted “extensive” consultations with stakeholders, from “nonprofits working on the ground in major sourcing countries and the factories themselves, to major global brands and the industry MSIs,” according to Natalie Grillon, project director at the OAR.

“Based on this input, we’re confident that we’ve built a tool that will be of practical use throughout the industry, enabling organizations to better understand their supply chains, collaborate on in-factory improvements and act as a source of truth on name and address information for global apparel facilities,” Grillon said. “We look forward to seeing all the ways the industry will use the tool for its work.”

Azavea, OAR’s technical provider, has received a two-year grant from C&A Foundation to continue to develop and maintain the tool, which aims to be a “go-to source” for brands and retailers looking to engage in greater transparency.

“Azavea is excited to work with C&A Foundation on the Open Apparel Registry. As a B Corporation, we seek out projects that have the potential for civic, social and environmental impact, and the OAR project aligns with our mission,” said Robert Cheetham, the company’s president and CEO. “We look forward to supporting a project that improves transparency and information sharing in the global supply chain.”