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Companies Come Together to Improve Social Welfare for Apparel and Footwear Workers

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Companies Come Together to Improve Social Welfare for Apparel and Footwear Workers

More than 30 brands, retailers, manufacturers and NGOs came together on Wednesday to launch the Social and Labor Convergence Project, an initiative aimed at improving working conditions in the global apparel and footwear production sectors.

Made possible by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC), signatories include Inditex, Nike, Adidas, H&M and Levi’s, as well as Avery Dennison and the fabric division of W.L. Gore & Associates.

Non-profit supply chain improvement experts Sedex and NGO Solidaridad are also part of the effort.

According to the group, the project seeks to achieve sustainable change through the collective development of an industry-wide, standardized methodology for social and labor performance assessment in the apparel and footwear supply chains.

By doing so, the industry believes it can significantly cut costs on duplicated auditing and the money saved will instead be used to improve social welfare for millions of people employed in the sector.

“The industry, having heard the call from so many different stakeholders, is convinced that the time has come to create greater alignment. We want to check less and act more: This initiative will accelerate a race to the top in social impacts within apparel and footwear manufacturing countries by shifting resources away from redundant and misaligned assessments to performance improvement and enhanced transparency,” said Baptiste Carriere-Pradal, vice president Europe of SAC. “Convergence is the key to successfully increase transparency and to improve working conditions in global supply chains.”

Michael Kobori, vice president of sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co., stated, “As a company with a pioneering record on labor rights and a long history of industry collaboration, we welcome the opportunity to explore how to support more effective and efficient ways to raise labor standards in the apparel supply chain.”

A public statement issued by the signatories in Amsterdam notes that the abundance of differing codes, audits, protocols and approaches is impeding the improvement of social and labor performance within global supply chains.

“Since the rise of social auditing in the apparel and footwear supply chain more than 20 years ago, we have seen the number of social audit standards and methods increase dramatically, some with only minor differences,” the statement said. “With brands and retailers each applying their own slightly different standards, manufacturers are allocating valuable resources to manage a steady stream of audits. In addition to contributing to ‘audit fatigue,’ this duplication reduces the value of audits and consumes resources that could otherwise be applied to making improvements.”

Through this project, the signatories want to start a discussion that will enable the industry to:

• Enhance transparency while dramatically reducing the number of social and labor assessments in our industry
• Shift financial resources away from assessment to performance improvement
• Accelerate a race to the top in social impacts within apparel and footwear manufacturing countries

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