International Labor Rights Forum

International Labor Rights Forum : The True Transparency Challenge

Washington, Estados Unidos Global Impact
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

True transparency from cotton field to store shelves is both possible and necessary to improve workers’ rights and transparency in supply chains. Our website/app will feature and link commendable examples of apparel companies that disclose their supply chain connections to be clear of forced labor.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

A. What if global apparel brands were publicly transparent about all the companies in their supply chains, from the cotton fields all the way to a store’s shelves?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The apparel industry is rife with violations of workers’ basic rights, including child and forced labor, and retaliation against workers who seek to improve their jobs. Workers don’t know which brands they are ultimately working for, nor can consumers find out who made their clothes. Moreover, corporate social responsibility programs, despite substantial investments, unfortunately reinforce opaque supply chains and undermine accountability.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

In the format of an interactive, visually appealing, user-friendly app/website, we will highlight industry leaders in transparency and challenge brands to publicly map all companies in their supply chains, from field to factory. In discussions with high performing global brands and smaller companies, we will incentivize the “challenge” of tracing their supply chains by emphasizing their industry leadership via the app/website. Consumers are looking for more information about how their clothes were made, and with this tool, companies can disclose their links to suppliers, without harming their competitive ability. Ultimately, true transparency will spur business innovation and ensure nobody gains an unfair advantage from sweatshop labor.


Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The True Transparency Challenge will increase transparency in the apparel sector, an essential step to ensure respect for workers’ rights. It will: 1) Put forward best practices that shows what true transparency is in simple, accessible terms; 2) Provide companies with examples of their peers that are following these best practices; 3) Increase consumer demand for apparel companies to disclose their supply chains from field to factory;

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

The True Transparency Challenge will be a new project. It will build on ILRF’s experience in advocating for and engaging with apparel brands to respect workers’ rights throughout their supply chains. While true transparency is vital to ensuring human rights of workers in global supply chains, many brands cite competition, complicated supply chains, and lack of incentives as obstacles. Even as several highly competitive global apparel companies disclose their direct, first-tier apparel suppliers, most brands remain resistant, and very few publicly map all companies in their supply chains. At the level of cotton production, disclosure is even less common. Companies like Patagonia and Maggie’s Organics have demonstrated it is feasible. We will show brands can know the companies in their supply chains and will challenge brands to engage from field to factory.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

True Transparency is the sustainable future of apparel and with strategies such as greater corporate engagement coupled with worker-led initiatives such as collective bargaining, our work will minimize the “challenges” of tracing their supply chains and emphasize industry leadership via the app/website. The challenge invites brands to engage companies in their supply chains to then implement best practices. Impact grows as more brands accept the challenge. Over 5-10 years, the industry evolves to global brands working with the companies in supply chains to ensure rights-based sustainability.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

ILRFs approach to sustainability includes strong board involvement and experienced Development staff that are tasked with securing funds through proposal writing, annual appeals, major donors, and special events. This project will mostly entail start-up costs related to building the website and engaging with apparel brands. After the website launch, we will insure sustainability by leveraging funds that support our supply chain research.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

While we are less familiar with other technologies that could solve this issue, the True Transparency Challenge addresses the problem by integrating learning from diverse approaches about the social impacts of the apparel industry. It recognizes distribution of value as a root cause of rights violations and challenges brands to start establishing relationships and incentives in their supply chains that support decent work, building on Better Cotton and other initiatives that do not address supply-chain economics or labor relations.

Founding Story

ILRF has become an instrumental force in stimulating solutions to the problems of worker rights and labor standards around the world. In the early 1980s, strong voices in human rights, labor, academic, and faith-based communities formed a coalition to fight for the rights of workers in international trade. The coalition succeeded in winning legislation that linked the granting of U.S. trade benefits to a country's respect for fundamental labor rights. After more successes, in 1986, the group launched the International Labor Rights Education & Research Fund, later shortened to the International Labor Rights Forum.


ILRF staff bring legal, policy advocacy, and corporate campaigning expertise to our work with partners around the world and, increasingly, in the U.S. Today, with a staff of 13 full-time employees, primarily based in Washington, DC, ILRF’s work advances enforcement of trade laws and policies that protect workers' rights around the world. Per ILRF’s by-laws, all business and affairs of ILRF are to be managed by or under the direction of the Board of Directors. The Board and the Executive Director, Judy Gearhart jointly manage and direct ILRF’s overall strategic planning. Additionally, the ILRF Board includes trade unions, faith-based organizations, human rights NGOs and universities from the U.S., Mexico and India and a member of the U.S. Congress. The project team has extensive experience and expertise to achieve the project’s intended impact. Judy Gearhart has extensive relevant experience for this project, including: documenting child labor for the ILO in Central America, building out programs to strengthen worker-manager dialogue in a dozen countries and convening SAI’s consensus-based process for drafting the SA8000 standard and corresponding guidance. Matt Fischer-Daly is the Coordinator of the Cotton Campaign, a global coalition coalesced to end forced labor of children and adults in the cotton sector of Uzbekistan. Previously, he worked for Social Accountability International, working with partners in Central America to promote labor rights in the agricultural sector. Liana Foxvog, ILRF's Director of Organizing and Communications, has played a critical role in helping launch new grassroots campaigns to promote transparency and respect for workers' rights in apparel supply chains. Bjorn Skorpen Claeson, Ph.D., is a Senior Policy Analyst at ILRF and was a founder of SweatFree Communities.
Value Chain: Where does your work fit into the apparel value chain? [check all that apply]

Raw Materials, Manufacturing.

Your Role: What is your relationship to the apparel industry? [check all that apply]

Advocate/Organizer, Non-profit Staff, Researcher.

Target Population: What stakeholder groups do you engage or empower in your work? [check all that apply]

Brands, Children, Consumers, Corporations, Factory Workers, Factory Owners, Policymakers, Sourcing Manager / Supply Chain Manager, Supplier - contractor.

● Intervention Focus: What are you trying to achieve / influence? [check all that apply]

Access to Social Protection Services (i.e. Insurance, Pension, etc.), Labor Rights (i.e. Collective Bargaining, etc.), Anti-forced Labor or Anti-Human Trafficking.

Lever for Change: Select up to 3 ways your work is helping to transform the industry.

Advocacy, Organizing, Policy, Standards.

Is your project targeted at solving any of the following key barriers?

Hidden from View: Conditions in Forests, Farms, and Factories are Only Visible to a Select Few, A Job is Not Enough: Low-Income Workers Cannot Secure Long-Term Well-Being.

Does your project utilize any of the innovative design principles below?

Disrupt Business as Usual: Target Key Players Who Can Influence the Bottom Line.

Innovation Inspiration: When you first conceived of your project, did you think of it as applicable to the apparel industry?


If you answered "no" to the previous question, which industry was your project originally aimed at transforming?

● Replicating in the Apparel Industry: If your project didn't initially target the apparel industry, how are you specifically tailoring it to do so now?
Are you nurturing or inspiring others to be changemakers? If so, how?

Yes, by building up the capacity and leadership of our grassroots partners.

● Tell us about the partnerships that enhance your approach. How have you collaborated with others in the industry to increase your impact?

ILRF staff work with over 30 grassroots partners and 50 stakeholder groups around the world to demand dignity and justice.