Transforming relationships between buyers and suppliers
Doug Cahn & Marsha Dickson
Although many fashion labels are committed to improving working conditions, factories still operate in ways that negatively affect the health and wellbeing of their employees. Many of those problems stem from brands' purchasing practices.
Late orders, missed payments and other such practices contribute to wage violations, abuse and excessive hours for workers. There's a growing awareness among brands and retailers that their own activities can have a negative knock-on effect further down the supply chain. But there's no comprehensive understanding or public visibility of the impacts that buyer practices can have.
Unsurprisingly, suppliers are wary of speaking out about these issues, even when companies ask for feedback. This lack of dialogue means many brands may not understand the root causes of poor working conditions. The conversations just haven't taken place.
Better Buying will act as an independent third party. For the first time ever, we're going to establish open, honest dialogue between brands and suppliers so they can resolve issues together. It's not about shifting power from one place to another. It's about creating a new playing field, where no single party can succeed without a more collaborative approach.
Through a web-based platform, Better Buying will give suppliers the chance to share information, thoughts and feedback about brands anonymously. Suppliers will rate brands on seven criteria, including payment, cost negotiation and forecasting.
We want to give brands a voice on the Better Buying forum too. We expect to have a section of the website where buyers and suppliers can explore solutions to reoccurring problems. Hopefully, this will open the door for more face-to-face collaboration between buyers and suppliers in ways that will benefit everybody.
We believe Better Buying has the potential to completely transform the relationship between suppliers and brands. Reforming purchasing practices is a sensitive topic for apparel companies that are successfully developing and sourcing products. After all, it's these practices that result in their primary source of revenue. But with decades of experience working to make supply chains fairer, we know that incremental improvement just won't cut it. To achieve lasting change, we have to create the foundations for conversations – even uncomfortable ones that haven't been possible before.
Our results in 2015
Our programmes directly touched 17,247 workers: