The fashion and apparel industry has one of the most complex and fragmented structure. Most simple accessories come from thousands of miles away, involving numerous suppliers across multiple continents. Besides, most of the brands do not own the factories in which their apparel products are made. This physical remoteness and absence of ownership, coupled with the absence of accountability makes keeping track of supply chains a complex and costly endeavor.
Additionally, the industry is prevalent with stories of child labor, poverty wages, environmental abuses and more.
Not to mention, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many more malpractices, with key international brands abandoning billions of dollars’ worth of orders from apparel factories leaving many factory owners incapable to pay their workers.
Also, globally RMG workers are being forced to work in insecure conditions, unable to socially distance. Most agonizing ironies, countless of those workers are now making PPE for export.
So far, a unified data center containing brands supply chain information to ensure and enforce accountability in a crisis like the COVID-19 has been on the table but yet to born fruit. Most of the information are in scattered form to make a comprehensive analogy.
a unified data center containing brands supply chain information to ensure and enforce accountability in a crisis like the COVID-19 has been on the table but yet to born fruit. Most of the information are in scattered form to make a comprehensive analogy.
Though some efforts like the Open Apparel Registry (OAR) started in 2019. It is an impartial, open-source tool mapping garment facilities worldwide and allocating a unique ID to each facility.
Inhabited by aids from stakeholders across the industry, including global brands, multi-stakeholder initiatives, civil society organizations and factory groups, the OAR is powered by a sophisticated name and address matching algorithm which recognizes where a facility already exists in the database and creates a new entry where a facility is being entered into the system for the first time.
In addition to many other competence and process benefits, the method the OAR organizes and presents data eventually progresses the lives of some of the most defenseless workers in global supply chains.
This process has already assisted renowned platforms like the Clean Clothes Campaign, which used the OAR’s data many times for its advocacy work, including to reach out to brands in seeking remediation for trade union leaders who have been unethically dismissed from their positions.
The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) has been able to use data in the OAR to safeguard that workers in Cambodia who were unethically dismissed for partaking in protests over changes to minimum wage legislation were reinstated to their jobs.
Also, the tool’s data has been used in mitigating the impact that COVID-19 has had on workers in the sector.
Although countless brands and sectors have yet to come under the platform, ultimately, it aims to see every apparel facility globally – including subcontractors – mapped in the OAR, each allocated its ID. Its goal is for the OAR ID to be used as the ‘central source of truth’ in the industry which, in turn, will enable collaboration and facilitate supply chain improvements.