Apparel brands bogged down by sourcing issues

11 Jul '16
3 min read

Responsible practices and sustainable sourcing remain a challenge for the global footwear and apparel industries, even as they continue to register growth and are poised to net $134 bn by 2020, observed a Hong Kong based quality control solutions company that tracks global trade, product quality and supplier compliance trends across the world.

In its Q3 barometer released over the wekend, AsiaInspection acknowledged that cotton sourcing practices in particular were in the spotlight in a recent report which slammed many major brands for doing “virtually nothing” to ensure that their cotton is sustainable.

Forced and child labour also posed particular risk to apparel supply chains, with top cotton exporters such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan being pointed out for doing little to enforce the conventions they sign.

According to Sebastien Breteau, AsiaInspection CEO Child labour could trap multiple generations in poverty, and it gets further perpetuated by the lack of access to quality and free education.

Thus, AI was keen to align its efforts with initiatives such as the Global Business Council for Education, and help out in eradicating child labour, he said.

Meanwhile, progress in structural safety of apparel supply chains also remained slow. AI's data on structural audits for Q2 2016 found that a little more than half (53.3%) of all factories audited were ranked as “Immediate Action Required” or “Need Improvement”.

Citing an ILO and IFC report, AI noted that despite the recent strides made by the Bangladeshi RMG sector, one in four factories requires extensive retro-fitting remedial work.

On sourcing challenges, AI data indicated that while the manufacturing base in Africa is growing, it is still immature: Inspection demand saw +61% growth year-on-year, but at the same time failed inspections rate surged by +15% in 2016 compared to last year.

Other industries such as jewellery industry also faced responsible sourcing issues, AI noted adding that sustainability efforts were gaining momentum with an audit program for jewelers launched by the Responsible Jewelry Council. As the EU recently adopted the framework to curb trade in conflict minerals, this program's membership is poised to increase further.

Across industries, AI data showed that unethical labour practices remain among the most pressing issues discovered during ethical audits: in Q2 2016, 5.9% of audits failed in the “Child Labour” section, an uptick from the Q1 figure of 4.6%. (SH)

Fibre2Fashion News Desk – India

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