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Compliance Must Go On

By: Russell Jowell (rjowell@wrapcompliance.org)
Dec 11

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Those are the words inscribed on the façade of New York City’s main post office, the James Farley building, in Manhattan. While the U.S. Postal Service hasn’t officially adopted the moniker, it has come to informally eponymize an expectation among the American populous that regular mail service should continue even through the most turbulent times, no matter if the turbulence is natural or man-made. In a way, this proverb can also be applied to apparel sourcing, and specifically, social compliance. We at WRAP are fond of saying that social compliance is now a “business imperative” because social compliance is indeed exactly that, an imperative that must be honored even in the toughest of business climates. In this piece, we are going to look at some of the partnerships that can help serve as guideposts for compliance continuity in a changing world.

There was a time, not so long ago, when compliance and social responsibility were “important-yet-disposable” functions that would be among the first on the chopping block when business got tough. Today, the opposite is true. A variety of factors, including consumer pressures and business demands, dictate that compliance and social responsibility efforts must continue even when business gets tough and should be among the last things on the chopping block, if they arrive there at all. This continuity, however, has become increasingly difficult to provide as the world has become more incongruous, especially since discontinuity itself is the enemy of business.

There are some who say that the word “team” is actually an acronym for “Together Everyone Achieves More,” and this mantra certainly holds true for social compliance. Partnerships are becoming the new norm in the compliance space and are increasingly being used to ensure compliance continuity. These collaborations often produce greater results than any single participant could achieve on their own. Certification groups like WRAP have been designed to serve as ready, willing, and responsive partners for stakeholders in the industry should they seek guidance outside of their own confines. Because compliance is a resource-intensive endeavor, compliance partnerships can often be used to diffuse these costs over a common group to achieve a common goal. Two notable examples of this are the Alliance and Accord in Bangladesh, formed in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza tragedy with contributions from dozens of major brands and buyers around the world. Both groups have been instrumental in embarking on the massive inspection effort in the country that was needed in the wake of the disaster. Compliance partnerships can also pave the way for greater harmonization among compliance and inspection standards as a whole. In their recent CSR reports, companies like JCPenny and PVH indicate that such efforts are essential to their own compliance teams, with JCPenny devoting an entire section of their report to “Partnerships that Promote Change and Safe Working Conditions.” PVH also touts joining the U.N. Global Compact, a collaboration of over 9,000 companies around the world that “seeks to harness the power of business as a force for positive change.”

The headwinds in today’s business climate are stronger than perhaps at any previous time in history. Companies are feeling pressure on two fronts: from their consumers who demand consistency even in inconsistent times, and from the greater environment which makes that consistency all the more challenging. As we are increasingly seeing though, collaboration and teamwork are becoming essential keys to success in this ever-changing world.

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