Best Current Practices in Purchasing: The Apparel Industry

For the past 15 years, many apparel companies have been actively monitoring their supply chains. Throughout, the majority has looked to factory owners and managers to make changes in factory conditions and operations to comply with local laws and meet brand compliance requirements. To meet requirements, demands were placed on suppliers to increase wages, minimize excessive overtime hours, secure freedom of association, and improve health and safety systems for workers. Simultaneously, brands were dictating lower and lower prices for products. Increasing demand for products at lower prices frequently prevents suppliers from having the resources necessary to abide by the standards laid out in codes of conduct.

This report presents how apparel industry leaders have made changes to their internal purchasing practices and corporate structures as part of the continued efforts to improve factory working conditions. Interviews with industry leaders detail how innovative purchasing practices impact both compliance and cost savings. Examples from Gap Inc., Jones Apparel, Levi Strauss & Co., Nike, Nordstrom, Phillips-Van Heusen, and Timberland show numerous benefits of having an effectively managed supply chain.

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Amy Galland, Ph.D., As You Sow

Amy Galland is Research Director at As You Sow. In that capacity she researches, analyzes, and publishes industry reports on Corporate Social Responsibility policies and benchmarks best practices in recycling, sustainability, product safety, purchasing, and supply chain monitoring. Amy also conducts the research for all shareholder campaigns and leads shareholder engagements on sustainability, greenhouse gas reduction/renewable energy, and environmental health. Prior to joining As You Sow, Amy worked as a consultant providing strategy, business development, marketing, and organizational design expertise to nonprofit organizations and small businesses. She has worked as project manager and production coordinator in the music industry and as an adjunct assistant professor of art history at Binghamton University. Amy was awarded an MBA and a Ph.D. in art history from the University of California, Los Angeles, an MA in anthropology from Stanford University, and a BA in philosophy and art history from Tufts University.

Patricia Jurewicz, Director, Responsible Sourcing Network, a project of As You Sow

Patricia joined As You Sow in 2006 and now heads up the Responsible Sourcing Network, which addresses human rights abuses at the raw commodity level of corporate supply chains. Previously she was at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and at Gap, Inc. She has past work experience with natural dyes, Latino political outreach, and women’s cooperatives. She has degrees from Thunderbird Business School, Cornell University, and the Fashion Institute of Technology.

David M. Schilling, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility

Rev. David M. Schilling is program director for the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of 275 Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant organizations. For twelve years, David has worked with ICCR members and associates on a range of global corporate accountability issues including human rights and labor rights in the contract supplier system. David, a United Methodist minister, has participated in delegations to Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Thailand, Turkey, Vietnam and China visiting factories and meeting with workers and non-governmental organizations.

Colleen Von Haden, Senior Manager Code of Conduct, The Timberland Company.

As Senior Manager of Timberland’s Code of Conduct program, Colleen manages the company’s global program for ensuring ethical sourcing no matter where Timberland products are made. With a team of 13 assessors across the globe covering roughly 300 suppliers in 38 countries, Timberland’s Code of Conduct assessment, remediation, and beyond monitoring programs are designed to create ripples and leave a positive footprint for the 274,000 workers making Timberland product and their communities. Located at Timberland’s headquarters in Stratham, NH, Colleen works closely with sourcing managers, senior management, and the company’s CSR Committee of the Board of Directors to monitor the company’s sourcing strategies and track the program’s effectiveness and impact.

Kindley Walsh-Lawlor, Gap Inc.

Kindley Walsh Lawlor is Vice President of Social and Environmental Responsibility for Gap Inc. In this role, Kindley is responsible for developing and implementing a comprehensive strategy to further integrate social and environmental objectives into the company’s Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy brands. She works closely with the company’s social responsibility specialists around the world to insure that workers on the ground making the company’s products are seeing positive change and experiencing fair, safe and healthy working conditions.

To learn more about human rights in the apparel sector, visit Responsible Sourcing Network, a project of As You Sow, is dedicated to ending human rights abuses and forced labor associated with the raw materials found in products we use every day. RSN builds responsible supply chain coalitions of diverse stakeholders including investors, companies, and human rights advocates. Currently, RSN works with network participants to leverage their influence in the areas of conflict minerals from the Congo and forced labor in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan to create positive change for brands, consumers, and the impacted communities.