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Reliance on contracted manufacturing continues to increase, as a growing number of top brands cite a need for sustainable changes in factories and move away from individually spearheaded factory inspections to jointly planned audits, shared information with other brands that source in the same factories, and collaborative correction actions.
Empowered by technology developed by FFC specifically to cut redundancy from factory compliance programs, international apparel manufacturers including adidas, Nike and VF Corporation now look beyond competitive concerns to change the way they - and other major brands - assess and communicate with factories. The ultimate goal is for sustainable improvement in factories, rather than continuing with the redundant individual inspection processes historically used by most brands.
"Today's approach to factory compliance audits isn't optimal," said Peter Burrows, executive director of Fair Factories Clearinghouse, the not-for-profit organization that developed the technology. "Several brands often source from the same factory, resulting in an unmanageable number of audits and correction plans. Factories spend more time scrambling for upcoming audits and squelching highest priority corrective issues rather than creating long-term sustainable change. By adopting a collaborative approach, brands can shift their focus to what matters: correction of root cause issues through long-term and sustainable improvements to management systems, employee relations, and environmental issues."
The audit-sharing platform introduced by the FFC in 2006 has undergone several enhancements as FFC members began to shift their focus from comparing notes on historical audits that had already taken place to more forward-looking collaborative actions. "Sharing historical audits was an important first step for us," notes Ron Martin, Director of Compliance for VF. "The FFC sharing platform allowed us to find other brands and manufacturers that source where we do; and through the exchange of historical audits become comfortable that we could work with other companies that had factory standards compatible with ours. Once we identified compatible companies, we asked the FFC to give us new tools for compliance that were more forward-looking and collaborative."
Today, FFC's audit collaboration release allows for:
• Calendar sharing: FFC members can post upcoming events to enable joint factory visits or training;
• Audit database integration: Sharing members can initiate collaboration audits on the FFC platform with other members, then export audit data back into their own proprietary audit databases for full company reporting;
• Role-based security system expansion: Members can add employees at other brands as participants on new audits;
• Social networking collaboration: Allows members to create multi-company work teams, store, search, and rank audit-related documents;
• Improved internal and external communication, including the ability for all participants to comment separately on issues found and corrective actions.
Fair Factories Clearinghouse was created to help those sourcing in the same factories collaborate on improving ethical sourcing, monitoring factory conditions, and establishing clear corrective action plans. FFC offers software that enables its members to share information that ensures cost-effective and well-informed ethical business transactions and improved workplaces globally.
Source: Fair Factories Clearinghouse
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