New benchmark outlines apparel industry purchasing practices

A Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Group (MSI) worked together to develop the “Common Framework for Responsible Sourcing Practices” (CFRPP), as an aligned reference document for the apparel industry.

This group has also set up the “Learning and Implementing Community”, a peer-to-peer learning environment for companies to support practical improvements in purchasing practices.

First unveiled last month, the framework is said to be key to improving working conditions in textile and garment supply chains.

The working group now has finalized the document, after assessing and incorporating feedback from a wide range of stakeholders. 34 organizations actively contributed with detailed suggestions and proposals. A document was shared with the updated frameto synthesize feedback and its integration.

The framework brings together different aspects of responsible procurement practices (RPA) into five principles: integration and reporting, equal partnership, collaborative production planning, fair payment terms and sustainable costs.

Moving forward, MSI’s Purchasing Practices Working Group is engaging companies that commit to taking new steps to improve their purchasing practices. A group of these companies will join the “Learning and Implementing Community” (LIC) for two years from September.

Apparel retailers and brands from a wide range of countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK, will take part in a series of interactive online workshops, which will include discussions and problem solving with suppliers on specific topics.

The MSI working group works closely with the Sustainable Terms of Trade Initiative to ensure that suppliers are part of the discussions, which remains essential as steps are taken towards a more equitable relationship and dialogue between suppliers and buyers. The LIC will develop resources including guidelines, case studies, tools, and video resources that will be shared more widely so that other businesses and stakeholders can benefit from community learning.

The framework recognizes and emphasizes that the responsibility to respect human rights and environmental standards in textile supply chains cannot rest solely with suppliers, but that buying companies must also assume their responsibilities. Measures must be taken by purchasing companies to modify their purchasing practices, where these compromise good working conditions.

The MSI Working Group Framework helps focus this action by providing a benchmark for what responsible practices look like and the Learning and Implementing Community will also contribute to this goal by supporting practical business action.

Buying practices have long been a bone of contention in the apparel industry, with the situation reportedly worsening significantly since the pandemic.

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Michael O. Stutler