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Supply Chain
Fashion Industry’s 4 Largest Women’s-Empowerment Programs ‘RISE’ to Scale Impact

RISE will build on the proven approaches and expertise of the four founding organizations, delivered through a growing network of local partners in Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Egypt and Pakistan.

BSR’s HERproject, Gap Inc’s P.A.C.E. program, CARE and Better Work have joined forces for a new initiative called RISE: Reimagining Industry to Support Equality in order to scale impact and accelerate equality for women working in global garment, footwear and home furnishings supply chains.

The ILO estimates 75 percent of the 60 million garment workers worldwide are women — with limited ability to advance in their roles, limited control over their income and increased risk of harassment, among other systemic barriers to empowerment and gender equality in the supply chain.

Whilst many organizations have been working for years to increase women’s empowerment, in a speech to the Commission on the Status of Women ahead of International Women’s Day (March 8) this year, UN Secretary General António Guterres said, “Progress won over decades is vanishing before our eyes,” and stated: “Gender equality is growing more distant. On the current track, UN Women puts it 300 years away.”

From collaboration to integration

Each of RISE’s four founding partners began working on gender equality around 2007 and have been collaborating on specific initiatives in an ad hoc fashion. However, they soon realized that similar workplace training was sometimes being delivered in the same workplaces, creating duplication and confusion across the industry; so, the founding partners decided to move beyond collaboration to integration.

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“For a very long time, we have been saying to business that advancing gender equality is best done in a collaborative manner. No one entity can tackle this alone. With that, it was quickly clear that coming together as one single entity was the only way to accelerate progress on gender equality in supply chains — and RISE was born,” explained Executive Director Christine Svarer.

Combining expertise of founding partners

RISE combines four organizations with 15+ years’ experience of implementing women’s empowerment programs in global supply chains. These organizations work with 50 of the world’s largest apparel brands and have reached over five million women workers globally. RISE will build on the proven approaches and expertise of the four founding organizations, delivered through a growing network of local partners in Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Egypt and Pakistan.

“In joining together to establish RISE, our industry can leverage the strongest elements from each of our proven empowerment programs to have deeper, broader and more consistent impact for the women who work in our supply chains,” said Sally Gilligan, Chief Growth Transformation Officer, Gap Inc. on behalf of P.A.C.E.

Scaling impact across the industry

RISE will support brands, buyers and suppliers to empower women working in their garment, footwear and home furnishings supply chains and have a wider impact on promoting gender equality in the industry as a whole. RISE will pursue its mission through three core strategies: (1) strengthening knowledge and skills for factory workers and managers; (2) transforming business practices to include gender equality, and (3) influencing public policy and other key actors.

“Joining BSR’s HERproject with other leading women’s-empowerment programs is the logical and necessary next step to take these proven solutions to scale,” said Aron Cramer, President and CEO of BSR. “As a combined force, RISE can navigate through the complex issues of gender equality in global garment supply chains and deliver real action and impact for both businesses and women workers.”

Companies supporting the development of RISE include Abercrombie & Fitch Co, Aje and Aje Athletica, AEO Inc (American Eagle and Aerie), BESTSELLER, Boden, Capri Holdings, Carter’s, Columbia Sportswear Company, Dôen, Hanna Andersson, Inditex, Macy’s Inc, Marks & Spencer, New Balance, Primark, PVH Corp, Ralph Lauren, Tapestry, Inc, Target, The Children’s Place, The Walt Disney Company, The Warehouse (NZ), Victoria’s Secret & Co, VF Corporation and Williams-Sonoma, Inc.

“The potential of this partnership to influence change at all levels from the enterprise up is unparalleled — as it brings together such a wide range of brands and retailers and industry stakeholders that all agree about the importance of collaborating to improve working conditions for women, particularly in the garment sector,” said Conor Boyle, Officer in Charge at Better Work.

Changing behaviors and systems

RISE’s capacity-building workplace programs aim to increase women’s dignity and equality in the workplace, by changing both behaviors and systems. The programs expand workers’ choices and their ability and confidence to pursue their rights and opportunities. The training also engages male managers and co-workers to challenge social norms in the workplace.

RISE goes beyond workplace programs to bring positive change to the whole industry and influence policy improvements. It includes workers’ voices and representation at every level from governance to project implementation, ensuring that the work responds to women's needs and priorities in the workplace.

"CARE is excited to be part of this collaborative effort to transform the apparel industry. RISE will bring together stakeholders across the industry — brands, suppliers, women's rights organizations and unions — to achieve systemic change driven by women’s voices," said Lona Stoll, VP of Innovation and Impact at CARE.

Galvanizing industry action

Brands, buyers and suppliers can join RISE and invest in a workplace program for their garment supply chain. Programs are currently operating in Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Egypt and Pakistan.

“It’s time to step up support for women workers in global garment supply chains,” Svarer asserts. “RISE will benefit from the proven approaches of its founding partners and go even further to reach more women, expand to more geographies and create more change. Brands and suppliers can join RISE straight away to take serious action towards gender equality.”