Addressing human rights within supply chain of apparel sector

APG and BF+DA (Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator) introduce the Brooklyn Pledge to Accelerate Change, named after the location of an inspiring event with apparel companies, investors and stakeholders which spawned the pledge. This pledge is intended to address human rights within the supply chain of the apparel sector. “The apparel industry accounts for 2% of the world’s GDP and employs 60‐75 million workers worldwide. Unfortunately, this industry is still characterized by poor working conditions, i.e. unsafe workplaces and underpaid workers. Improving this is one of the thematic engagements for APG, but also for ABP and bpfBOUW, some of the pension funds APG provides Asset Management services to,” says Anna Pot, manager responsible investments at APG US.

57 recommendations

The pledge is part of a whitepaper that lists 57 recommendations to improve human rights and sustainability within the industry, for example through transparency in reporting, empowering employees, adjusting sourcing programs, building consumer awareness and demand for more sustainable clothes. The recommendations are 57 concrete actions defined by the professionals and experts who attended the ‘Connecting Finance and Sustainability: A dialogue towards action on human rights in the apparel sector’ event in September at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. APG and BF+DA now lead the call on apparel companies investors and stakeholders to pledge action on one more of the recommendations from the list.

Making progress

“Of course, APG needs to walk the talk. We focus primarily on making and keeping sustainability top of mind for the boards of companies that we invest in. We talk to senior management of relevant companies about their sustainability agenda and progress in the implementation. Between 2015 and 2018, we have corresponded, spoken on the phone and met with 19 apparel companies. As a result, overall brands and retailers have strengthened their procurement policies and audits, and some have limited the number of suppliers. We also ask for more transparency about where and how clothes are made, so consumers can make educated decisions. As of November 2018 an organization called Fashion Revolution counts 172 brands and retail chains that have published their supplier list on their website. More investors calling for transparency will help get this number up,” explains Anna.

Partnerships in the US

She continues: “Sustainability has become a more and more mainstream discussion in much of Europe, whereas companies and investors in the US are still finding their footing on this topic. We partner with respected US institutes like BF+DA to catapult the discussion here into more mainstream forums. My personal target for next year is to speak about sustainability in the apparel sector at US investor conference outside the ‘sustainability bubble’. Somewhere where this topic is not yet top of mind, but needs to be!”

BF+DA is a hub for ethical fashion and design located in New York. One of its key aims is to increase the level of sustainability within the apparel sector.

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