Be prepared to manage the swift change transparency may catalyse

Transparentem is an organisation that conducts deep investigations into supply chains to address the most egregious violations of human rights which continue to persist. Its first investigation focused on leather tanneries in the Hazaribagh section of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Because of the tanneries, this area had been named one of the 10 most polluted places on earth and was rife with labour violations. Partly due to Transparentem’s work documenting problems and approaching the tanneries’ buyers with evidence, the tanneries were shut down and relocated to a non-residential, purpose-built tannery estate.

However, some of the challenging problems, such as health and safety conditions for workers, have continued in the new location. And the effluent treatment plant at the new location isn’t fully functioning. Transparentem continues to monitor the situation in the new tannery estate and is working with other stakeholders to make sure improvements are made. Any attempt to shut down illegal operations and relocate elsewhere needs to mitigate unintended consequences, such as the families left behind, and ensure that the new location does not repeat the mistakes of the old.


Transparency needs a solid foundation

The Open Apparel Registry (OAR) is a new initiative with a vision to create an opensource, public, sortable map of all apparel factories globally. At the moment, factory lists are separate, published by brands or industry initiatives on their own websites, or held privately. There is no one go-to place to see all these lists together and find overlaps and opportunities for collaboration.

The OAR will collate these lists and provide a unique identification number for each factory. This means all decision makers, from workers and brands to industry initiatives, will be able identify where they share a common interest in a factory, and collaborate together. Lasting change in the apparel industry depends on collective action – and this is the starting point.