Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular production location is China with 1,035 sites listed

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular production location is China with 1,035 sites listed

A Dutch agreement on International Responsible Business Conduct (IRBC) in the global garment and textile sector is a step closer to responsible garment production after revealing participating businesses will state which factories produce their clothing for the first time.

Launched last year by a coalition of parties, and led by the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER), the Sustainable Garment and Textile Sector Agreement works to improve labour rights and worker conditions.

75 firms sign up to Dutch sustainable sourcing pact

The aim is for at least 50% of the Dutch garment and textile sector to sign the agreement by 2018, and 80% by 2020. So far 64 businesses have signed up, representing about 80 different consumer clothing and textile brands, and representing more than one-third of all textile sales in the Netherlands.

Those having endorsed the agreement include organisations such as VGT, Modint, Solidaridad, UNICEF Netherlands, the India Committee of the Netherlands, and the National Government of the Netherlands. All have pledged to tackle issues such as working conditions, wages and environmental pollution in the garment and textile supply chains in countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Turkey.

The businesses involved will now be expected to state the names of the factory which produce their clothing along with the corresponding address, city, region, and country. In addition, the group have agreed that an independent secretariat, based at the SER, will publish an annual, fully aggregated list of the production sites. For the parties, publishing this list represents an important step towards making substantial improvements in the sector, says SER, which is the main target of the agreement.

"It will make the supply chain more transparent, an important factor that supports dialogue and a joint approach to problems," it adds.

Meanwhile, because the secretariat knows the relationship between the production site and the purchaser, it can inform the purchaser or purchasers immediately if reports of shortcomings or incidents come in and help them take appropriate action.

For the first year, the agreement steering committee has decided that the names of producers active in 2016 must be published.

It adds the participating businesses have submitted a total of 3,168 production sites, at least 261 of which were submitted multiple times. If the secretariat finds multiple submissions of one and the same production site, the site appears only once on the aggregated list.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular production location is China with 1,035 sites listed, followed by India with 331, Bangladesh with 262, Cambodia at 85, and Vietnam at 57. Pakistan was also at the top of the ranking with 79.

In Europe, Turkey topped the list with 333 production sites, while Romania and Bulgaria were a close second and third with 49 and 48 respectively. In Africa, Tunisia was the most popular production location with 41 sites listed.

Meanwhile, specific improvement plans have also been drawn up to tackle poor working conditions, human rights and environmental and animal abuses, while an independent disputes committee has been appointed with the power to issue binding rulings.

"Thanks to this agreement, we are taking firm steps that individual parties or businesses have been unable to do on their own in the past twenty years."

"Thanks to this agreement, we are taking firm steps that individual parties or businesses have been unable to do on their own in the past twenty years," says SEP president Mariette Hamer. "The dialogue leading to an agreement generates a basis of support for improvements. That basis is now a fact. Over the next four years, people around the world who make our clothing will start to notice those improvements."

The Dutch government says it will try to form agreements with local or national authorities in sourcing countries, for example about strengthening their health and safety inspectorates, in addition to working with other countries that have comparable initiatives in a bid to scale up the initiative to the EU level.

It has also made available to consumers a list of 60 clothing companies participating in the agreement, including C&A, G-Star, O'Neill and HEMA, offering them the opportunity to purchase more ethical fashion. Together they represent around 35% of sales in the Dutch fashion and apparel market.