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Free Open-Source Tool Aims to Map Every Apparel Factory in the World

Garment supply chains can be confoundingly opaque, making labor and environmental abuses impossible to detect. A new online tool, on the other hand, wants to shed some light on the issue. How? By mapping every single clothing and textile manufacturer in the world.

Now in beta, the free-to-use Open Apparel Registry (OAR) seeks to become the “go-to source” for identifying apparel facilities and their clients by collating disparate factory lists into a central, open-source database. Users can currently access the names, addresses and affiliations of more than 50,000 factories and mills, each of which brandishes a unique OAR ID for ease of tracking. 

Although the project is funded by the C&A Foundation, the OAR isn’t “owned” by any organization, per se, as an FAQ on the website reveals. Powered by Sourcemap’s supply chain–mapping software, the OAR is independently managed by an interim board led by Natalie Grillon, co-founder of Project Just, a not-for-profit that evaluates businesses based on their ethics and sustainability.

All of the tool’s data, which is open and licensed under the Creative Commons Sharealike 4.0 license, is maintained by the OAR team, which reaches out to stakeholders like factories and brands to ensure lists are kept up to date.

To be clear, the registry doesn’t store any proprietary data. “The Open Apparel Registry only publishes the name, address and unique OAR ID for each factory in the database, as well as the source of the data,” the FAQ writes. “So, if an auditing company uploads a factory list, the auditing company will be named as a data source for that factory, but no other data will be held in the OAR.”

Sharing supplier lists won’t affect a brand or retailer’s competitive advantage, the OAR notes, adding that “over 100 brands are now publishing their supplier lists, and some have published their lists for years.”

The OAR’s aim is to streamline supply-chain mapping, said Leonardo Bonanni, founder and CEO of Sourcemap and the new platform’s technical lead.

“We hope it serves as a reference for not only brands and NGOs, but for researchers and start-ups aiming to inform the public about the performance of various apparel brands and their products,” he told Ecotextile News.