The Social & Labor Convergence Project (SLCP) held meetings in Hong Kong from March 5-9, 2018, to discuss technical details as the facility (self/joint)-assessment and verification methodology launch date approaches. There are still important decisions to be made, but everyone involved understands its potential — and how the project’s potential for impact continues to grow beyond its original concept. 

Assent Compliance advocates for an aligned framework, and we believe the SLCP’s work can improve working conditions in the apparel and footwear supply chain, and in other sectors. We became a proud signatory of the SLCP in February 2017. Since then, we’ve leveraged our considerable expertise and experience in supply chain transparency and data management to support the project’s work, including the use of our technology platform for the Project’s recent pilot. This has brought us from our headquarters in Ottawa to Ho Chi Minh City, Bangalore, Amsterdam and, most recently, Hong Kong.

Now, as the project turns its attention toward adoption and operationalization, Assent looks forward to working with other signatories to streamline and promote adoption of the converged assessment framework. After our participation at the recent meeting in Hong Kong, we left assured of the project’s success and galvanized to start the next phase.

 

Here are four key takeaways from the SLCP meeting in Hong Kong.

  1. We are succeeding at a difficult task.

Convincing global apparel and footwear companies to leave behind their auditing methodologies to work toward a converged assessment framework is challenge enough. Creating a single common assessment that has broad relevance to manufacturing facilities, regardless of what stage they’re at in their sustainability journey, is nearly untenable. And yet, the project is succeeding, and many of the industry’s largest competitors are working together to make the converged assessment a reality.

  1. Key technical details are being prioritized.

The framework’s lite operational rollout in Q4 of 2018, is coming fast, and the project has entered a critical stage. Important technical discussions are being held to ensure smooth implementation. Questions concerning how to host and share data, and facilitate peer-to-peer learning among adoptees, are being resolved. Everything is falling into place.

  1. Other sectors are looking to the project for clues.

Audit fatigue and decent work deficits are common across global supply chains, regardless of sector. As other industries consider how best to leverage data sharing platforms to improve working conditions in their own supply chains, they’re closely watching the SLCP for clues — and they’re justified in doing so. Data sharing has the potential to be a game changer for social and labor conditions, and the SLCP is leading the way.

  1. The converged assessment has the potential to underpin other collaborative efforts.

It’s impossible to know the extent to which the full rollout of the converged assessment will impact the sector, but everyone in the room has a sense of its potential — and its capacity to facilitate ongoing collaboration. Once implemented, it will provide the foundation upon which companies can continue partnering to improve social and labor conditions in the apparel and footwear sector, such as through collaborative corrective action plans.

 

The future of labor rights reform.

The project is an excellent example of what an industry can achieve when it works together to address common challenges. Its continued success is a testament to the commitment of its signatories. If the project moves forward with the same dedication, the converged assessment will have substantial, measurable impacts on global labor conditions in supply chains, improving the lives of those working within them.

Sarah Carpenter is a Senior Business & Human Rights Analyst and Corporate Social Responsibility Steering Committee Chair at Assent Compliance, an industry-leading SaaS (software as a service) supply chain data management solution provider. She specializes in advocating for human rights in global business operations. Prior to joining Assent, she supported the United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) in Bangladesh as it played a central role promoting labor rights reform in the garment sector following the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse.