Businesses participating in the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile take a step forward in international responsible business conduct

The number of participating businesses that fully comply with the process requirements relating to international responsible business conduct has grown sharply from 5 to 36. There are now more than 5,800 locations identified where garments and textiles are being produced. This is stated in the 2019 annual report of the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile, which is published today.

© G.M.B. Akash / ANP

The 2019 annual report (in Dutch) provides an overview of the results achieved on the basis of facts & figures and a series of interviews with stakeholders on nine themes, including living wage, child labour and animal welfare. The Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile brings together many parties and businesses with the aim of promoting international responsible business conduct in the international garment and textile chain. The market share of the participating businesses is approximately 40 to 45 percent.

The participating businesses have their action plans assessed annually on the basis of due diligence regarding international responsible business conduct. This means that businesses show how they deal with the risks in their chain, what goals they set and what actions they take. The result is that 36 businesses (63 percent of the 57 businesses assessed) fully comply with the requirements laid down in the assessment framework. This is a considerable improvement compared with 2018, when five businesses (8 percent) met the requirements in full.

The annual report covers the period before the coronavirus outbreak. “The coronavirus outbreak is having enormous consequences for all parties in the chain. It shows how important it is that participating businesses, trade unions, NGOs and the government identify risks and work together nationally and internationally to address them”, says Pierre Hupperts, chair of the Agreement. “But there is still a way to go. On the basis of the Agreement, we remain committed to achieving positive changes in the chain step by step. That will take a lot of effort and will require a lot of patience. A number of steps in the right direction have been taken in 2019.”

Further increase in transparency

The Agreement entered into a partnership with Open Apparel Registry (OAR) in 2019 to further increase transparency in the chain. OAR is an open worldwide database of textile production locations. Businesses can see which other brands are also buying from the same factories, and civil society organisations can therefore perform better research into social issues. This makes it easier to work together and to exert more influence to bring about improvements in the chain. The number of production sites identified at participating businesses increased by 1,027 to 5,812. The worldwide OAR list contains some 32,000 locations.

Last year, 44 businesses communicated publicly for the first time about their due diligence efforts. Eight businesses signed the Transparency Pledge in November 2019. In addition to participating in the OAR list, these businesses promise to report on where they produce their garments, the type of garments involved and how many people are working on the production. Together with the four businesses that previously signed the Transparency Pledge, they allow 85 percent of the production locations identified by the Agreement to be traced back 1-on-1 to their buyers.

Parties and businesses worked on results on various themes in 2019. Examples include collective projects regarding Child labour, Living wage and Making textile dyeing more sustainable in China. Also, fact sheets were published in English to disseminate internationally the knowledge acquired on animal welfare in the garment and textile sector and performing due diligence on this theme.

About the Agreement

The Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile has been bringing together businesses, industry associations, trade unions, NGOs and the government since mid-2016 with the aim of promoting international responsible business conduct in the garments and textile chain. The parties work together under the leadership of an independent chair. The SER runs the secretariat, gives advice and annually assesses businesses on their action plans in accordance with the OECD and UN guidelines for due diligence. At the end of 2019, the market share of the participating businesses was estimated at approximately 40 to 45 percent. This is lower than in 2018 (48%), due to market developments and the fact that detailed information about the size of the market is no longer available.
The Agreement also provides for an independent complaints and disputes committee to which stakeholders or their representatives can turn. In 2019, the committee handed down its first rulings in two disputes.