Laying the Foundation for a New Approach to Raising Standards in the Garment Industry

July 10, 2017

We developed the Better Buying program over last two years with the recognition that buying companies, especially brands and retailers, needed greater knowledge about specific purchasing practices.  We also anticipated that a system to measure progress could provide the basis for focused solutions by companies and industry-wide initiatives.

Better Buying provides a scalable solution to deliver critical data that will provide a foundation for industry-wide transformation of purchasing practices, so that the relationships between buyers and suppliers better support suppliers in providing decent working conditions.

With support from C&A Foundation, we started our work by reviewing reports and research that had been conducted by civil society and academics over many years, combined it with our personal knowledge and experience, and then developed a comprehensive inventory of purchasing practices that can negatively impact suppliers and subsequently, workers in their factories.  Based on that background research, we could easily have written a rating questionnaire with 200 measures!  We knew, however, that a lengthy set of questions would not result in a good rating system. We pushed to design a more streamlined process.

Better Buying identified the purchasing practices that matter most to suppliers. Starting with our desktop research, we dug deeper by analyzing data gathered through:

– Field research of critical buying practices in Hong Kong, China, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
–  Input from additional stakeholders through 40 formal consultations.
– Supplier survey results determining the availability of information, and their willingness to rate.
– A pilot study testing the ability to receive supplier ratings and the value of the results.

Through this process, key elements of our theory of change have been supported.  For example, maintaining the anonymity of suppliers submitting rating is essential.  We’ve also developed the right measures that address key challenges suppliers face while having the added benefit of being able to track improvements over time as buyers devise and implement plans to improve their practices. While the eventual public transparency of ratings brings hesitation to buyers, they and other stakeholders recognize this as a critical component to industry transformation. The ratings platform, developed by our partner Fair Factories Clearinghouse, is safe and secure and ready to go. We are adding upgrades to make it even more useful and secure.

Independent external evaluation indicates that Better Buying is a more effective tool for communicating purchasing practices problems than anything else currently available, including supplier forums and surveys initiated by buyers.

Better Buying, with its new online rating system, created to highlight areas for improved purchasing practices, is set to begin receiving ratings this fall.

How will improving purchasing practices lead to better conditions for workers? Suppliers we spoke with made it clearpurchasing practices and working conditions are directly correlated because of the pressures purchasing practices can have on the financial situation of suppliers, the time required for production, and the predictability of the business relationship.  Better Buying scores will measure individual buying company purchasing practices, providing buyers the opportunity to understand which practices need to be improved so that suppliers can consistently provide decent conditions of work.

Coming Next

Over the next 9 weeks, Better Buying will be sharing some of the results of our pilot test to give readers an understanding of the types of purchasing practices we are measuring and how the data generated through the rating system can guide efforts to improve those practices.

Subscribers to the Better Buying list can expect to receive the full report from our pilot test, broken up into the following chapters:

Chapter 1 Participation and Scores

Chapter 2: Paying the Bills on Time

Chapter 3: Managing the Purchasing Process

Chapter 4: CSR Harmonization 

Chapter 5: Pricing Orders Responsibly

Chapter 6: Design and Development

Chapter 7: Planning and Forecasting

Chapter 8: Sourcing and Order Placement

Chapter 9: Putting Better Buying into Action

Thanks for your interest!

Marsha Dickson, Ph.D. and Doug Cahn

Co-Founders, Better Buying


Up Next

Chapter 1: Participation and Scores

Early Buyer Ratings Show a Mix of Good and Not So Good Practices A pilot test of the Better Buying rating system was… Read More

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