Mapping the public data landscape in apparel

by Sarah Ong on Apr 13, 2017

We live in the age of information, but making sure data is useful, and not disclosed purely for disclosure's sake, is a challenge. That's especially true in the apparel sector, where information about supply chains and factories remains patchy.

This week saw an important attempt to join up the dots.

The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) released the first version of a free data directory that shows which organisations are generating or will be generating public information related to working conditions in the apparel industry.

The impetus for this directory came from a meeting C&A Foundation jointly hosted with ICAR last year. There were a number of data generating, gathering, and policy advocacy organisations in the room, and several organisations connected for the first time. Everyone agreed that mapping the available data would be helpful for their work.

Speaking ahead of the directory release, Nicole Vander Meulen, ICAR's Legal and Policy Associate, said: “Data is incredibly important if we're going to increase accountability for improvements in the apparel industry, but the data needs to be used and useful.

“Data is incredibly important if we’re going to increase accountability for improvements in the apparel industry, but the data needs to be used and useful.”

ICAR Legal and Policy Associate Nicole Vander Meulen

“Without a proper picture of the data landscape, many organisations are missing opportunities to collaborate. We can't see where there are gaps in information and organisations can end up duplicating efforts. Connecting data organisations with policy advocates also helps organisations to understand whether what they are producing is actually of any use. Everyone benefits."

The directory is limited to the type of data which has potential to increase accountability on an ongoing basis – data which is publically available, names specific entities (countries, brands, suppliers etc.), and is regularly updated to enable comparison between peers and over time.

The first release of the directory includes 33 organisations. It's a solid start and we hope it will grow to provide a full picture of data across our sector.

Bringing together the owners, producers, and users of data gives us a chance to make sure information gets to the people and organisations that need it, and that the data producing organisations receive feedback on the type of disclosure that is really useful.

If you would like be added to the ICAR data directory, please contact Janet Ho (j.ho@candafoundation.org) or Nicole Vander Meulen (Nicole@icar.ngo)