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International: Global Unions and Human Rights Organizations Report Increase in Transparency in Garment Industry

(Jan. 15, 2020) In December 2019, Human Rights Watch, along with a coalition composed of several prominent workers’ rights organizations, global unions, and international corporate accountability advocates, reported a “surge” in garment industry transparency.

As Human Rights Watch notes, murky reporting and unreliable sourcing have historically plagued supply chains in the garment industry. In 2016, the coalition created the Transparency Pledge to provide a tool for advocates, workers, and consumers to assess a minimum standard of supply chain transparency and easily identify where a brand’s products are made. Part of the recent improvements in transparency were attributable to this pledge, the coalition noted.

The coalition argues, however, that the role of corporate social responsibility in guaranteeing supply chain transparency in the garment industry cannot be the sole approach to protecting workers’ rights. The recent report released by the coalition also urges all governments to enact laws governing companies’ mandatory due diligence with regard to human rights responsibilities. The report also recommends that governments amend customs-related regulations so that importers of garments are required to disclose the manufacturer’s name and address and make this data public.

The coalition’s work on the Transparency Pledge parallels several national governments’ initiatives in the area of transparency in supply chains in the garment industry, including the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textiles (AGT) and the United Kingdom’s Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). At the international level, the Word Bank’s Development Report 2020 provides further insight into recent advances in transparency in the garment industry by addressing the legal and developmental implications of global value chains. The United Nations has also recently developed a blockchain traceability tool and policy framework to follow material and production flows in the clothing sector through the Global Fashion Agenda.