Learn More/FAQ

 

General FAQ'S:

 
 

The short-term goal of this project is to determine the feasibility of a web based public forum that would:

1. Allow suppliers to provide anonymous input about how specific buyers’ buying processes (i.e., purchasing practices) make it difficult for suppliers to achieve compliance with their own code of conduct for labor standards and working conditions, and

2. Create a forum for suppliers and buyers to share and dialogue about potential solutions to the problems. In the long‐term, a dialogue and rating platform would make it easier for suppliers to maintain decent factory workplace conditions by reducing or eliminating barriers to compliance that are created through the buying process.

As part of this project, we are carrying out a series of consultations with key stakeholders to understand how to motivate suppliers to input ratings and how to motivate apparel buyers to use those ratings to push for improved performance on key purchasing practices issues.

Suppliers who have had positive experiences with buyer practices may wish to encourage and promote those practices through the rating and dialogue platform. Suppliers who have been frustrated by buyers because their practices make it difficult to comply with workplace codes of conduct may wish to point out areas of needed improvement, in a safe space where their anonymity can be protected.

Many buyers are looking for ways to improve performance on workplace codes of conduct in their supply chains but lack the specific knowledge about how their own practices can affect compliance. The online rating and dialogue platform will provide buyers with insight into discrete practices that can be targeted for improvement.

Buyers will also benefit from being able to share publicly information about the policies and procedures they have adopted to improve buying practices and to post specific actions taken in response to online ratings. Additionally, buyers will benefit from being able to view their own ratings compared to the ratings of other buyers. Chat rooms and training tools are other possible benefits for participation.

The rating and dialogue platform will calculate and present publicly an overall rating score and category ratings for each of the purchasing practices topics for each buyer that is rated, on the basis of aggregated ratings data input anonymously by their suppliers.

The rating and dialogue platform will also allow buyers to publicly post information about the work they are doing to improve purchasing practices and to respond to their ratings. Despite the considerable focus that has been given to purchasing practices over the last decade, very little is known about actions taken by buyers to reduce their negative impacts on factories and workers. Because the key problems resulting in part from poor purchasing practices remain some of the most persistent and dangerous to workers, there is clearly an opportunity for buyers to do more.

Although problems stemming from poor purchasing practices may be the most difficult to address, since these are the practices that make money for buyers, increasingly, the resulting problems with working conditions and labor rights are material risks of interest to consumers, investors, and others.

A public rating and dialogue forum focused on purchasing practices will level the playing field for companies that have already made changes in their purchasing practices by providing an incentive for others to do so as well. By publicly listing and highlighting best performers, the forum will spark a “race to the top,” unleashing business innovation for sustainable solutions.

Although some suppliers have strong relationships with their buyers and feel comfortable directly expressing their concerns, many suppliers do not have this same level of comfort. Anonymity of suppliers will be essential so that there is no possibility of negative impacts of the rating system on a supplier’s business relationships.

While there can never be a 100 percent guarantee against false data being used to rate companies, there are a variety of tested methods for protecting the integrity of the data used to rate companies that have been identified in preliminary research. These include:

* Requiring a user profile for registered suppliers so that malicious users can be better identified and blocked.
* Requiring that only suppliers who can confirm business with a buyer be allowed to rate the buyer.
* Encouraging suppliers to rate multiple buyers so that the quality of the aggregate data is improved.
* Requiring raters to answer all questions so that no one issue negatively impacts overall ratings.
* Overseeing these and related procedures using professional staff to ensure proper controls.

An off-site verification system, accompanied by tools and checklists to standardize the process, will also be considered.

As part of the feasibility study, the project team is examining a number of approaches to organizational structure and financial sustainability. These approaches will be tested during the consultations with buyers and suppliers and may include payment of a small registration fee for suppliers and a tiered subscription fee for buyers who benefit from access to increasing levels of information and tools that can drive improved results. Basic information will be made available to the public for free.

A wide range of apparel industry suppliers, buyers, and other stakeholders in Asia, North America and Europe are being directly consulted for their input into the key components of the dialogue and rating system.
We welcome written input from all other interested parties as well.