Avedis Seferian, president and CEO of WRAP

Avedis Seferian, president and CEO of WRAP

A survey designed to gauge the current state of play when it comes to social compliance certification schemes for the apparel and footwear sector suggests some buyers appear to be increasingly sceptical about what is on offer.

In particular, an article on just-style last week said non-profit global compliance organisation Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) needs to improve the level of trust in its own programmes.

But this is not entirely surprising, Avedis Seferian, president and CEO of WRAP has told just-style.

The research compiled by the group on "Constructive Dialogues: Examining Social Compliance Programs through Conversations with Stakeholders," was the result of a project designed specifically to seek out constructive criticism about WRAP, he explains.

And when it came to talking with buyers, "we very deliberately skewed the sample towards buyers who do not use our programme - talking with over twice as many buyers who do not use the WRAP programme versus those who do."

Indeed, of the 50 people questioned about their thoughts on social compliance, 27 did not use the WRAP programme, against 11 who did. The rest were representatives of non-governmental organisations, socially responsible investors, US government agencies, service providers, and educational institutions who have expertise in the field.

"It was, therefore, completely expected that a majority of those we talked to would have feedback about WRAP that suggests we could do better - and that was the very point of the exercise."

To extrapolate from that a sense that the majority of all buyers lack trust in WRAP is "an unfair and distorted reading," Seferian adds.

He also points out that "saying something can be done better is not the same thing as saying it was being done badly in the first place.

"While our report did acknowledge that there is room for WRAP's programmes to grow and improve, this in no way means that they were sub-par to begin with."

Indeed, the research discovered that 96% of buyers use social compliance audits conducted by external parties in some way, "showing that even while talking about the room for improvement, buyers continue to place trust in independent, objective social compliance monitoring organisations."

Two main issues the organisation acknowledges that it needs to address following the feedback are a lack of trust in its audit reports, and the need to improve the communication of what it does.

And it is responding with plans to increase its own internal audit staff and carrying out more post-certification follow-up audits.

It will also add more full-time local staff in key sourcing destinations, and expand efforts to support factory transparency, such as increasing after-hours observations in certain countries and regions to verify that factories actually are operating according to the hours that they claim.

"As with many other human endeavours, especially in fields such as social compliance, a constant process of self-reflection and improvement is essential for ongoing success," Seferian continues.

"We at WRAP feel that it is imperative to constantly stay abreast of the changing trends and evolving challenges so that we can adjust our programmes in ways that best serve those needs and address those challenges.

"That is why we conducted this stakeholder outreach project and why we ensured that the majority of the respondents we spoke to were buyers who do not currently use WRAP."

To read the article to which this feedback refers, click on the following link: Many buyers “lack trust” in third party compliance.