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Impact Over Compliance: The Trouble With Certification

September 8, 2016

Impact Over Compliance: The Trouble With Certification

September 8, 2016
by Kelsey Halling

Have you heard the one about the fire extinguisher?

An auditor was completing an onsite assessment of a production facility for a major apparel brand when he noticed that fire extinguishers were mounted on devices that allowed them to slide up and down the wall. The auditor asked about this.

“Well,” the facility manager said, “you require that our fire extinguishers be 4 feet from the floor, but Brand X requires that they be 3 feet from the floor, and Brand Y requires 2 feet from the floor.”

It’s a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of auditing. A facility could lose points for having accessible working fire extinguishers, because of an arbitrary decision that optimal fire extinguisher height is 4 ft vs. 3 ft vs. 2 ft: A classic case of missing the forest for the trees.

Certification = Compliance. Not Impact.

There are few universally accepted certifications in the apparel industry. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) is making headway with the Higg Index, which is the tool Thread adopted for our annual auditing process, but there is still a way to go before universal adoption. Once brands post their Higg scores publicly - the way our B Corp score is posted publicly, or the way New York restaurants post their sanitation grades - things will get interesting.

Read more at Sustainable Brands.

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