thread_website5  What do we want to achieve?

We seek to develop a simple, unified and effective industry-wide assessment framework which accelerates social progress in the apparel and footwear sector. This framework includes a standard-agnostic tool and verification methodology

to collect relevant and essential data with the intent to replace current proprietary tools used by brands and manufacturers. In order to allow adoption at scale, the tool and verification methodology will be open source and publicly available.

thread_website5  Why this project?

Our industries have reached a consensus: while the current compliance-focused approach to social and labor assessments has played a significant role improving workplace conditions over the past two decades, it has also led to a proliferation of different standards, codes and protocols, and in turn, audits.

We believe that we can improve labor conditions in the apparel and footwear industries by joining hands: ‘one single assessment for all, more resources and improvements for everyone’.

The project seeks to develop a common framework for data collection that will reduce duplicated efforts, creating opportunities to invest resources previously designated for compliance audits into the improvement of social and labor conditions. Collecting common data allows business partners to measure continuous improvement and increases the opportunity for transparency. With this approach, we can accelerate social impact and drive sustained improvements to working conditions in the apparel and footwear sector.

thread_website5  Who is involved?

To date, we have over 100 signatories to the project who represent a diverse set of stakeholders within the industry. We are continuously engaging with new potential partners, collaborators and stakeholders for inclusion in our work, including civil society organizations such as trade unions, NGOs and Academia. We invite any interested and committed organizations to join us.

The project is funded by the C&A Foundation and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, with co-sponsoring for specific activities from The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Norges Bank Investment Management.

Events:

24th of May – Verification Working Group meeting (invite only) in Bangalore, India

25th of May – General Assembly in Bangalore, India

26th of May – Non-signatory Stakeholder meeting in Bangalore, India

 

Signatories commit to:

Collaboration

in order to develop a converged framework based on inclusiveness and equal partnership.

Agree & Adopt

on a common framework and aim to adopt the framework in lieu of proprietary tools after 2018.

Share

the assessment results to establish a transparent industry.

Ensure & Promote

ownership and accountability for necessary factory improvements.


thread_website5  What is the scope of the project?

This project will have an agnostic framework. The focus will be on the collection of performance data in a unified and credible way, allowing sharing and comparing across brands, manufacturers and other organizations. The tool is non-judgmental: it will leave undefined what the threshold for ‘good’ or ‘bad’ practices are, and focus on collecting the objective data. The tool offers the basis upon which standards and codes of conduct will base their insights and results. It will not consolidate existing standards and codes into one.

thread_website5  What is the approach of this project?

Tool Development
We will use a phased approach and start with the foundational data points, which are common among the majority of currently used tools. We have completed a comparison study of 21 existing tools and will use this study as our “library” throughout the process of development. The first prototype, planned to be delivered by Q4 2016, will be an excel-style question set. At this stage, we anticipate the tool to be built using a modular (step wise) approach, allowing flexibility in the detail level of data collected at the facilities.

Verification
The verification process aims to verify the data collected by a facility during the self-assessment process. It will ensure the correctness and completeness of the data gathered through the assessment tool after the self-assessment has taken place and

will be carried out by an individual who has been trained/certified to carry out verifications on behalf of the Social and Labor Convergence Project. The verifier will not pass judgement or score the facility. Guidance documents will be provided to the factory and verifier to ensure that both parties are aware of and adhere to the same verification protocols.

Working Groups
The project has four focus areas, each of which is translated into one operational working group: Tool Development, Verification, Stakeholder Engagement and Communication & Public Relations. For each of the working groups, goals and milestones as outlined in the Strategy Document have been identified.

thread_website5  What is the governance for this project?

The project uses a multi-stakeholder governance approach. Several bodies have been established in order to create checks and balances, clear division between the strategic level and operations, and to recognize different involvement levels of stakeholders. The Steering Committee, responsible for strategic direction of the project, has multi-stakeholder representation with members elected by signatories. The Steering Committee is led by an independent chair. A Project Management Team is responsible for the operational aspects, coordinates the Working Groups, and makes recommendations to the Steering Committee. The Working Groups drive the development work and consist of representatives of signatories. Key Working Group decisions and milestones, particularly for tool development and verification methodologies, are supported by a non-signatory Advisory Group of Standard Holders/Multi-stakeholder initiatives. Furthermore, there is a non-signatory Stakeholder Group. They will be kept informed on regular project updates and are also requested to provide input and advice to the Project Management Team. 

thread_website5  What have we achieved and what is our path forward?

In October 2015, 33 key stakeholders announced the initiative to launch this project and invited others to join. We have made significant progress since the beginning of this journey, including the approval of our governance model and strategy documents. In 2016, we began collectively building the first prototype for the assessment tool. In 2017, we will develop a common verification methodology and begin piloting the tool. After multiple iterations and pilots, we aim to publicly release the final version of the tool in 2018. An ongoing stakeholder engagement and communication process will take place throughout the two-year project time frame.

thread_website5  Contact Us

Janet Mensink

Project Director, Social and Labor Practice, Sustainable Apparel Coalition

Janet is the Project Director for the Social and Labor Convergence Project. She has more than 15 years of experience in Sustainability and Apparel, including consulting for CREM-Amsterdam and working as the International Program Manager for Sustainable Cotton & Textiles of the Solidaridad Network. Janet has served on several boards and councils, including the Better Cotton Initiative and the Index Development Council for the SAC.

janet@apparelcoalition.org

Christian Smith

Project Manager, Social and Labor Practice, Sustainable Apparel Coalition

Christian is the Project Manager for the Social and Labor Convergence Project. Prior to joining the SAC, Christian worked with ASOS, TESCO, PVH and TOMS consulting on sustainable business strategies. He holds a Masters in Environment and Sustainable Development from the University College of London.

christian@apparelcoalition.org

Baptiste Carriere Pradal

Vice President - Europe, Sustainable
Apparel Coalition

Baptiste is responsible for launching the Social and Labor Convergence Project. He is the Vice President of Europe for the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and coordinates collaboration between European Governments, authorities and organizations. Prior to joining the SAC, Baptiste created and was head of the sustainability department at Decathlon, a French based sport producer and retailer.

baptiste@apparelcoalition.org

thread_website5  Additional FAQs

No, the SAC is solely facilitating the project at the Project Management Team level. The SAC does not own the work, nor the outcomes.

We do not require fees at this time, but ask for contributions to the work, to the extent that it is feasible for your organization.

With your organization’s senior management consent, you can become signatory by confirming in an email to Janet Mensink, the Project Director (janet@apparelcoalition.org).

Yes, when signing up for a working group, you can reach out to the Project staff or the co-chairs of the Working Group to get up to speed on the status of the work. Note that as the project is progressing, some decisions, such as the strategy, are final. The strategy was developed in the Working Groups, refined by the Project Management Team and approved by the Steering Committee (June 2016).

In 2015, signatories from the apparel and footwear sector came together to call for collaboration to reach a common social assessment framework. While the focus in the 2 year project duration is this industry, the signatories mentioned in the original public statement that they believe that this effort could later be applied to other industries.

The current version of the tool (question set) is set up in a way that does not apply to just apparel and footwear facilities, but could also be used to measure social and labor conditions in facilities producing other products. Once we have successfully completed and rolled out the project in our industry, the next step would be to scale up to other industries.