Supply chains have globalized.    Our tools to govern them have not. 

Katalyst Initiative was founded by civil society veterans to help create the governance tools needed to ensure human rights are respected in complex 21st century garment supply chains. Within the growing global movement towards a fairer garment industry, we see a critical need to catalyse* a shared strategic vision across global civil society:  trade unions, worker and human rights groups, environmental initiatives, researchers, policy experts and others.  By combining the rich but often fragmented expertise held by civil society across supply chains; and by learning from what has – and has not – worked over the last 20 years, a new set of governance tools can be created to strengthen respect for rights in the global economy.

A pressing need for improved governance

For the last two decades, governance in the garment industry has been dominated by voluntary, business-led due diligence efforts, including factory audits, codes of conduct and contractual arrangements.  As our partners at Cornell University and elsewhere have documented, these efforts had very limited success in protecting workers. COVID has further exposed the severe limitations of relying on voluntary measures.

Katalyst Initiative maintains that effective governance of the global garment industry requires coordination action in three areas:

•  Innovations in transnational and sectoral collective bargaining and social dialogue

•  Public regulation that can cope with global economic systems

•  Improvements in private regulatory efforts

Improving respect for human rights will require coordinated action on all of three of these fronts, up and down supply chains. We call this the ‘full spectrum governance strategy.’  

Our theory of change: the road to a ‘full-spectrum governance’ strategy

Katalyst is grounded in the belief that the transition to ‘full-spectrum governance’ needs to be driven by civil society. Our mission is to support and enable effective strategy creation and new levels of coordination among the diverse, transnational array of civil society organisations that have worked tirelessly around the globe for garment workers’ rights.

There are indeed real gaps in our collective understanding of the industry. Past and current governance and accountability efforts have tended to be based on assumptions about things like the industry’s size and structure, power points, and what the future will hold. Questioning these assumptions  – and, with the help of experts from worldwide academia and civil society, filling knowledge gaps wherever possible – is where Katalyst has an important contribution to make. We propose that with greater understanding, creative and effective solutions will emerge that lead far more effectively to respect for human rights in supply chains.

The garment industry as a model for governing other supply chains

The global garment industry is among the most transnational, complex and fragmented industries in the world.  At the same time, the civil society networks that have taken shape globally around this industry are some of the most developed of any industry. Together, these two factors mean that much of what can be learned from the garment industry can be applied to other industries, where similar problems exist, and where the corresponding civil society networks may not yet be as well-developed.  The value of sharing with – and learning from – other industries is integrated into KI’s approach.

* As our chemistry teachers taught us long ago, a catalyst provides inputs that can help other agents do what they already do, but more quickly, with less energy and waste, and usually with strong bonds to each other.

Katalyst Initiative