Human Rights Watch | Follow the Thread: The Need for Supply Chain Transparency in the Garment and Footwear Industry

he garment and footwear industry stretches around the world. Clothes and shoes sold in stores in the US, Canada, Europe, and other parts of the world typically travel across the globe. They are cut and stitched in factories in Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, or other regions. Factory workers in Bangladesh or Romania could have made clothes only weeks ago that consumers elsewhere are eagerly picking up.

When global supply chains are opaque, consumers often lack meaningful information about where their apparel was made. A T-shirt label might say “Made in China,” but in which of the country’s thousands of factories was this garment made? And under what conditions for workers?

There is a growing trend of global apparel companies adopting supply chain transparency—starting with publishing the names, addresses, and other important information about factories manufacturing their branded products. Such transparency is a powerful tool for promoting corporate accountability for garment workers’ rights in global supply chains.

Transparency can ensure identification of global apparel companies whose branded products are made in factories where bosses abuse workers’ rights. Garment workers, unions, and nongovernmental organizations can call on these apparel companies to take steps to ensure that abuses stop and workers get remedies.

Publishing supply chain information builds the trust of workers, consumers, labor advocates, and investors, and sends a strong message that the apparel company does not fear being held accountable when labor rights abuses are found in its supply chain. It makes a company’s assertion that it is concerned about labor practices in its supplier factories more credible.

The need for information about factories involved in production for global brands has become painfully clear in recent years through deadly incidents that have plagued the garment industry.

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