Manufacturer's voice is key in S&L Convergence Project - HongKong launch event 16 and 17 March

The Social & Labor Convergence Project has been kicked off  on the 2nd of Febuary in Amsterdam and the 2nd half of the launch took place in Hong Kong (supported by CITA) on 16 and 17 March. Over 100 participants joined the 2 days sessions, with the majority Asian manufacturers. The participants got clarity on its objectives, outcomes and process and had lively debates and working sessions. During the second day a start was made with strategy discussions for the tool development.

The Social & Labor Convergence Project 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, it will drive quality of assessments and 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. In addition, one common best in class tool will drive comparability and hence create true transparency and a race to the top. This pioneering project unites stakeholders from manufacturers, brands, standard holders, (inter)governmental organizations and civil society and builds further on existing frameworks such as FLA, BetterWork and Sedex and benchmark tools from GSCP.

Mr. Felix Chung, Member of the fifth Legislative Council of HKSAR opened the event. Signatories such as Hanbo (chairman Peter Cheng), H&M (Payal Jain) and WRAP (Clay Hickson) explained about their vision on the project and the reason why they joined. Elevate CEO and SAC CEO Jason Kibbey comment on the relevance of this project for sustainability in the industry. The manufacturer’s panel with speakers from Crystal Group, Esquel, Arvind and MAS Holding gave interesting insights, referring to audit fatigue and many current audits not driving change. All underlined the need to do this project collaboratively, taking into account all perspectives. Manufacturers expressed their support to the project and commented that to take one step at a time.

The industry believes that through convergence of assessment tools, it will drive quality of assessments and 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.

Learnings from earlier attempts on a similar goal and best practices from other industries were discussed. Some strategies for survival were identified and shared:Allow for both personal and company opinions.  Both are critical and it allows the experts to give more than just the company line on certain issues.

  • Revisit the same topic multiple times; this will be a circular process
  • Be open to uncomfortable conversations
  • Don’t take it all too seriously
  • Stay solution oriented; drive toward actions and solutions
  • Make sure that you’re never saying ‘there hasn’t been enough action’
  • You need the SCALE to be successful in assessing so keep at it!

During the second they input and suggestions were sought from the audience through workshops and table excercises for developing the strategy and rolling out the project