Some brands have refused to disclose, in reaction to the Transparency Pledge. Their arguments are listed here, with our rebuttal.
1. Competitive Disadvantage:
A few brands —KiK, Inditex, DICK’s Sporting Goods, and The Children’s Place— that declined to publish their supplier factory information cited competitive advantage. However, many other large apparel companies and retailers with own-brand apparel products have published supplier factory information for years. Five companies have published this information for more than a decade. Garment industry giants are increasingly choosing to publish their supplier information, proving that transparency can easily coexist with being competitive.
In some cases, supplier factories already openly advertise on their websites the names of brands they produce for, even where a brand does not.
Many apparel companies are also part of initiatives like the Fair Factories Clearinghouse and Sedex, where they voluntarily disclose and share non-competitive information with other brands, including supplier names, audit reports, and so on, even where they do not do so publicly.
Moreover, apparel companies that import products into US markets are subject to the US law, which requires that customs authorities collect information on each shipping container that enters a US port, including the shipper (typically in the case of garments the overseas supplier) and the consignee (typically the apparel company or its agent). Online subscription databases purchase this trade data and market it in searchable formats, allowing users, including competitors, to gather information about suppliers to apparel companies that import goods into the US. But the costs of accessing such subscription- based databases are prohibitive for workers and many civil society organizations. While apparel companies can easily purchase subscriptions, workers and many labor advocates around the world cannot afford them. Despite the availability of these records, some companies are known to use various means of shielding their own names and their suppliers’ names from appearing in this data.
2. Anti Competition Law:
KiK declined to publish information about their supplier factories, raising anti-competition concerns among others. However, other brands selling products in Germany or other EU countries are governed by the same laws as KiK. They have been disclosing supplier information for many years; and more brands operating there have committed to begin public disclosure. These include companies that already disclose supplier factory information, such as adidas, C&A, Columbia Sportswear, Disney, Esprit, H&M, Levi’s, Nike, Patagonia, and Puma; and others that have committed to beginning disclosure in 2017, such as ALDI North and ALDI South, BESTSELLER, Fast Retailing, LIDL, and Tchibo.
3. Private Disclosure:
In response to the coalition’s recommendation that brands publicly disclose their supplier information, a few brands declined, citing their participation in other initiatives, like the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety or global framework agreements (GFA) with IndustriALL and UNI Global Union.
When implemented effectively, such initiatives serve important human rights due diligence purposes. For example, the Bangladesh Accord requires brands to confidentially disclose their supplier factory information to the initiative’s Steering Committee and staff, which makes public the names of all factories covered by the Accord and their performance on building safety issues, but without disclosing the specific brands that are supplied by each factory. An apparel company’s global framework agreement with IndustriALL typically requires the company to disclose its factory lists to the global union. This creates a basis for the union to engage with the company on the behavior of particular supplier factories.
However, none of these agreements prevent brands from publishing their supplier factory information. A number of brands participate in the Bangladesh Accord and publish their supplier factory information. Apparel companies H&M, Tchibo, and Mizuno have shown that private, confidential reporting within the framework of legally binding agreements can and should complement publishing supplier factory information.
MANGO, in response to outreach about the Transparency Pledge, offered an alternative: disclosing only to members of the coalition that spearheaded the Pledge, or to parties that register with the company. These proposals fall short of the level of supply chain transparency needed in the industry. Private disclosure of this type is not sustainable, and does little to improve human rights due diligence in global apparel supply chains.