At least 29 global apparel companies have published some information about the factories that manufacture their products as part of the move to make the supply chain transparent, according to a recent report.
A coalition of nine global human and labour rights activists in the joint report also called upon the remaining apparel and footwear companies to reveal their source of production and join the 'Transparency Pledge' that they endorsed last year.
The 40-page report titled "Follow the Thread: The Need for Supply Chain Transparency in the Garment and Footwear Industry" was released Thursday just ahead of the fourth anniversary of the Rana Plaza building collapse that killed more than 1100 garment workers in Bangladesh.
The coalition consists of Clean Clothes Campaign, Human Rights Watch, IndustriALL Global Union, the International Corporate Accountability Roundtable, the International Labor Rights Forum, the International Trade Union Confederation, the Maquila Solidarity Network, UNI Global Union, and the Worker Rights Consortium.
As of December 2016, Adidas, C&A, Disney, Esprit, Gap Inc., G-Star RAW, H&M Group, Marks and Spencer, Nike, Puma, Target USA, VF Corporation and Wesfarmers Group (Kmart and Target Australia, and Coles) are among the apparel companies that published some supply chain information about their branded products, according to the report.
"More apparel and footwear companies should join 17 leading apparel brands that have aligned with an important new transparency pledge," the coalition said in the report.
The coalition contacted 72 companies and asked them to adopt and carry out the pledge. The report details their responses and measures their current supply chain transparency practices against the pledge.
"A basic level of supply chain transparency in the garment industry should be the norm in the 21st century," Aruna Kashyap, senior counsel for the women's rights division at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.
"Openness about a company's supply chain is better for workers, better for human rights, and shows that companies care about preventing abuse in their supply chains."
Citing the industrial incidents Tazreen Fashions fire and Rana plaza building collapse in Bangladesh and a fire in a Pakistani factory-Ali Enterprises, the statement added that afterward, labour advocates could not determine which companies' products were made at these factories and had to hunt for the brand labels from the factory sites and interview surviving workers to determine who was responsible.
"After Rana Plaza and other disasters, human rights groups, unions, and some companies and investors have seen how important transparency is for preventing abuses and for efforts at accountability," said Ben Vanpeperstraete, lobby and advocacy coordinator at the Clean Clothes Campaign International Office.
"Companies need to put transparency into practice to show that they respect human rights and decent working conditions."
Transparency is a powerful tool for promoting corporate accountability for garment workers' rights in global supply chains, the coalition said adding it allows workers and labour and human rights advocates to alert the company to rights abuses in its supplier factories.
Information about brands' supplier factories facilitates faster access to grievance redress mechanisms for human rights abuses, the statement added.
"Adhering to a minimum level of supply chain transparency in the pledge is important for accountability efforts," said Judy Gearhart, executive director at the International Labour Rights Forum. "Companies can do more, but they should at least start with this basic step."
Some companies claimed that disclosure would put them at a commercial disadvantage. But that justification is clearly contradicted by the other companies that are publishing such information, the groups said.
As Esprit, one of the companies that made a commitment to align with the pledge, said, 'releasing this information is not comfortable for many companies, but the time has come to do it."