An Open Letter to Global Brands in the Apparel and Footwear Sectors

Monday, December 14, 2015

We are students at the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University. This semester we enrolled in a new class on labor practices in global supply chains, with a focus on the garment industry. While we learned a lot about the issues, what surprised us was the relatively limited progress in improvement in factory labor conditions in apparel supply chains, despite 20 years of efforts by brands.  And recent research suggests that that progress (in terms of compliance with codes of conduct) has plateaued.  Even today, labor conditions in first tier supplier factories of reputable brands, do not meet, on average, all the core labor standards set forth by the ILO and various corporate codes of conduct. And we have not considered conditions in Tier 2 suppliers and beyond.   

Unlike some, we are not convinced however, that the limits of private regulation have been reached, and we feel that there is much more that can be done by all stakeholders involved, but especially the brands. Hence, this letter is addressed to you all, the global brands, as YOU are the engines that drive improvements in labor practices in their supply chains.  Our letter is long, but hopefully relevant.

While we appreciate your efforts thus far, we feel that much remains to be done to make sustainable improvements. Below is what we feel are the MINIMUM steps that you must take to make your efforts to improve labor practices in your supply chains MORE CREDIBLE to our generation.  

Our letter is organized into five sections.  Please click on each section below.

We would like to see you move from  FROM COMPLIANCE TO COMMITMENT IN BRAND-SUPPLIER RELATIONSHIPS.

We think you can do better on  TRANSPARENCY AND TRACEABILITY,

We think you should focus more on COLLABORATION IN A COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT.

We think it is imperative to have INTERNALLY CONSISTENT APPROACHES.

We feel that your approach to labor compliance must be RECONCEPTUALIZED AND INTEGRATED INTO THE EMERGING HUMAN RIGHTS ARCHITECTURE.

CONCLUSION