CALLS FOR FACTORY AUDIT COMPLIANCE AND RESULT SHARING
- Factory audit compliance would boost transparency, cut costs and reduce audit fatigue, claims brand supplier
- Better information also needed on the true cost of clothing
- Garment factories still squeezed on price despite growing cost of compliance
A garment manufacturer from Bangladesh, who supplies denim fabrics to many of the world’s leading apparel brands, has called for factory audit compliance to improve transparency and cut costs.
Talking at the Innovation Forum’s conference on sustainable apparel and textiles in Amsterdam, which took place on April 9th and 10th, Mostafiz Uddin, Managing Director of Denim Expert Ltd., claimed that, at present, factory owners in sourcing countries such as Bangladesh face an onerous number of audits from different apparel brands and retailers, most of them gathering the same information.
“Why can we not converge audits by sharing audit information across all brands within one central database?” said Uddin, whose business exports around three million pairs of jeans annually. “Multiple factory checks and audit fatigue is a serious issue for suppliers,” he told an audience, which included senior executives from the likes of Puma, VF Corp, Inditex, adidas, H&M and Hugo Boss.
He also called for greater transparency from brands, including improving information on staple clothing items such as jeans and T-shirts. At the moment, he suggested, the public “remain in the dark” on such issues. “Suppliers have done their bit [on transparency] – it’s time for brands and retailers to commit to full transparency.
Uddin’s overriding point was that the Bangladeshi ready-made garment industry has witnessed an unprecedented overhaul since the Rana Plaza disaster. The industry, he suggested, is now the safest in the world and factory owners in the country now have “nothing to hide”.
“Our factories have cooperated with the various safety initiatives and made their safety reports publicly available, which is unique in the global apparel supply chain,” he said. “Third parties are auditing our factories in a transparent procedure to check social compliance, and we are engaging with other standards such as the Higg Index and LEED Building Certification. We also have safety hotlines so that workers can register their concerns in the most transparency way.
“Meanwhile, the C&A Foundation has funded a live online map for each and every factory in our RMG industry so that people across the world now know exactly where our factories are located and their compliance status.”
Despite this progress, Uddin suggested that for true transparency, more support is needed from apparel brands.
“Transparency itself cannot be sustainable if buyers don’t make their business processes transparent,” he said. “Fashion is one single, global supply chain connecting consumers, retailers and suppliers. If buyers are not transparent then the chain breaks.”
Uddin reinforced his message by suggesting that unit costs for apparel have in some cases declined since the Rana Plaza tragedy in 2012, despite it being widely acknowledge that the cheap price of clothing was a key contributor to the accident as suppliers cut corners to meet the requirements of buyers.
“After Rana Plaza, we were told that this was the price we pay for cheap clothing,” he said. “Yet since then, as suppliers we still haven’t seen any increases in unit costs.
“I see so many discussions going on worldwide about transparency in apparel supply chains. However, we really need to review whether these discussions are making a difference or are simply talking shops within the industry.”