Outdoor and Athletic Brands Push for Global Labor Standard

Outdoor and Athletic Brands Push for Global Labor Standard

Adidas Group, Columbia Sportswear Co., Nike, REI, VF Corp. and Outdoor Industry Association were among the brands, retailers, industry groups and non-profits to call Wednesday for a developing a single standard for working conditions in the global apparel and footwear manufacturing sector.

The coalition launched the Social and Labor Convergence Project, which seeks to achieve real, 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. The industry believes that through convergence of assessment tools, costs on duplicated auditing will be significantly reduced, and the money saved will instead be used to improve social welfare for millions of people employed in the sector.

This collaborative effort is being facilitated by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and supported by leading organizations and companies, both SAC members and non-members. Signatories to the public statement include Nike, H&M, VFC-Timberland, Levi Strauss & Co., PVH Corp., Gap Inc., Target, Columbia Sportswear Co. and Adidas Group, standard holding organisation WRAP, the non‐profit supply chain improvement experts Sedex, NGO Solidaridad, auditing firms Bureau Veritas and SGS, the International Apparel Federation and many others stakeholders at all levels in the value chain.

The signatories invite other stakeholders to join this collaborative effort.

The Social and Labor Convergence Project follows the development of a successful assessment framework created by the SAC and its members. The initiative seeks to respond to the calls from the European Commission, the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and a number of European countries for a standardized global ap

“The industry, having heard the call from so many different stakeholders, is convinced that the time has come to create greater alignment,” said Baptiste Carriere-Pradal, Vice-President Europe of SAC. “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. Convergence is the key to successfully increase transparency and to improve working conditions in global supply chains.”

A public statement issued by the signatories in Amsterdam Oct. 21 notes that the proliferation of differing codes, audits, protocols and approaches are hampering 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 twenty years ago, we have seen the number of social audit standards and methods increase dramatically, some with only minor differences,” reads the statement. “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.”

The project seeks to start a dialogue 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.

The SAC is committed to facilitate this project in an equal partnership approach by bringing together all segments of the value chain, including manufacturers, brands, retailers, non-governmental organization, workers unions, government
representation, auditing firms and all relevant stakeholders, and by working with other multistakeholder initiatives which have developed assessment tools and methods.

Other members of the coalition include W.L. Gore & Associates Fabric division, the European Outdoor Group and the auditing services Bureau Veritas, Control Union and SGS.