Open Apparel Registry: Industry’s new buzzword that talks about transparency

by Dheeraj Tagra

17-April-2019  |  9 mins read

Open Apparel Registry

Accurate supply chain transparency is crucial in helping apparel workers achieve their rights. So, having a clear and unified registry of production facilities makes finding the right information easier and faster, and therefore speeds up the route to remedy. The Open Apparel Registry (OAR) launches free, open source global map of apparel facilities. Following a beta release in 2018 and a series of improvements based on user feedback, it was launched recently to the public. OAR maps apparel factories globally and assigns a unique ID number to each.

Developed by Azavea, a geospatial software firm and a certified B Corporation based in Philadelphia, and funded by C&A Foundation, OAR is getting appreciation among various stakeholders of the industry.

Azavea has extensive experience in developing and maintaining open source projects and will support the creation of new features on the OAR over the next two years. OAR aims to become the go-to source for identifying apparel facilities and their affiliations by collating disparate supplier lists from industry stakeholders into one central, open source map and database.

The experts believe that with free access, OAR has become a vital tool for corporate transparency and accountability. It brings immediate benefits to work. For instance, one uses the OAR to track back the abuse reported in apparel factories to ensure brands are informed of violations in their supply chains, and to seek accountability – due diligence to end abuse and remedy for those harmed.

Various stakeholders like human rights’ advocates, civil society, investors and the Governments can use it to help drive the change needed to achieve sustainability and respect for human rights throughout the apparel supply chains.

Even the C&A Foundation has lent its support to this initiative. Leslie Johnston, ED, C&A Foundation believes that this ground-breaking initiative is the first to share, free of charge, important industry data across brands, retailers, manufacturers, multi-stakeholder initiatives and civil society. “By doing so, the OAR accelerates collaboration within the apparel industry and contributes to a new paradigm of open data, which we believe is critical to making fashion a force for good,” she adds.

“We look forward to seeing all the ways the industry will use this tool for its work. As part of its development, we’ve conducted an extensive stakeholder consultation exercise, gathering input and feedback from across the industry – from non-profits working on the ground in major sourcing countries and the factories themselves, to major global brands and the industry MSIs. Based on this input, we’re confident that we’ve built a tool that will be of practical use throughout the industry, enabling organisations to better understand their supply chains, collaborate on in-factory improvements and act as a source of truth on name and address information for global apparel facilities,” says Natalie Grillon, Project Director, OAR.

OAR works simply

There are around 50 companies (brands or retailers) supplier list on this site while total facilities are 10,856. One can easily find the brand’s supplier list or locations (address) of the facility by the company name and country. The OAR also shows details like a particular unit being associated with a particular brand or retailer. Via Google Translate, it is available over 100 languages. Apparel Online explored OAR from India perspective and found out that there are currently more than 1,225 results.

Data Sources and Safety

The huge data on OAR is compiled from multiple sources including large datasets from multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs), brands and retailer supplier lists, facilities and factory groups, service providers, government databases and more. And this data is published under an open data license – Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0. For many years, hundreds of brands (often multiple brands within one parent company) have been publishing their supplier lists on their own websites, which demonstrates that sharing this data does not affect competitive advantage.

Forces Behind

The OAR is a neutral, non-profit organisation, with a multi-stakeholder Board of Directors representing civil society, the open data sector, factory groups, industry MSIs and brands. To further facilitate contribution and cross-industry collaboration, several industries’ MSIs, including Amfori, Fair Factories Clearinghouse, SAC, SEDEX and ZDHC have formed an OAR working group to explore API integration.

Other benefits

OAR’s other miscellaneous advantages include:

  • Finding potential new suppliers listed with their affiliations
  • Understanding the affiliations of current and prospective facilities to identify opportunities for collaboration
  • Leveraging the OAR ID as a unique and shared ID across software systems and databases
  • Updating and standardising facility names and addresses against the database

Industry welcomes!

“The OAR will offer a unique platform that helps to increase transparency in highly complex textile supply chains. By consolidating and mapping information from multiple sources, a high level of quality and comparability is achieved. HUGO BOSS attaches great importance to such an approach. Only by joining forces from all industry players, we can achieve systematic sustainability improvements in the textile and fashion industry.” – Andreas Streubig, Director, Global Sustainability, HUGO BOSS

“Fair Factories Clearinghouse (FFC) is very pleased by the development of the OAR. One of the critical remaining barriers to more cross-platform collaboration and data exchange has been the lack of a single, trusted supplier directory; the OAR will fulfill this promise. FFC plans to contribute supplier master data to help build the new open source registry but, more importantly, we also expect that use of it will create benefits for our members, as it will greatly improve the quality of our own supplier master data. FFC is proud to be a founding member of the OAR multi-stakeholder working group to develop electronic data synchronisation between multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) and the OAR.” – Peter Burrows, ED, FFC

“Arvind Ltd. believes there are real benefits to facilities and factory groups themselves engaging with the OAR. By being able to demonstrate the relationships of your facility through the affiliations visible on the site, and directing people to the OAR as a verified resource, the OAR serves to enhance trust between suppliers and clients. By using the unique OAR ID, there is the potential to save hours of time and huge financial cost through more streamlined and efficient reporting. We’d encourage other supplier groups to get on board to reap the benefits this free tool can offer.” – Abhishek Bansal, Head of Sustainability, Arvind Limited

“The OAR seeks to resolve an important challenge that the industry has been struggling with for several years – the lack of a single facility identifier for garment factories in the apparel supply chain. This development will support current and future brand collaboration on factory audits, joint remediation, corrective action planning and capability building.” – Jeffrey Hogue, Chief Sustainability Officer, C&A Global

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