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We need you! Become a School of Data Fellow

Milena Marin - May 9, 2014 in Featured, School of Data


Got data skills to share? Member of a community that wants to turn data into information? Know about a data journalism or civic activism project or organisation which need a push for using data more effectively? The School of Data needs you! We are currently broadening our efforts to spread data skills around the world, and people like you are crucial in this effort: new learners need guidance and people to help them along the way. Stand out and become a **School of Data Fellow**.

We are looking for people fitting the following profile:

  • Data savvy: has experience working with data and a passion for teaching data skills.

  • Understands the role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and media in bringing positive change through advocacy, campaigns, and storytelling. Fellows are passionate about enabling partners to use data effectively through training and ongoing support.

  • Interested or experienced in working with journalism and/or civil society.

  • Has some facilitation skills and enjoys community-building (both online and offline).

  • Eager to learn from and be connected with an international community of data enthusiasts

As a School of Data fellow, you will receive data and leadership training, as well as coaching to organise events and build your community. You will also be part of a growing global network of School of Data practitioners, benefiting from the network effects of sharing resources and knowledge and contributing to our understanding about how best to localise our training efforts.

You will be part of a six-month training programme where we expect you to work with us for an average of five days a month, including attending online and offline trainings, organising events, and being an active member of the School of Data community.

There are up to 10 fellowship positions open for the July to December 2014 School of Data training programme.

We have current collaborations and resourcing confirmed to support fellows from the following countries: Romania, Hungary, South Africa, Indonesia, and Tanzania. We are also able to consider applicants for the remaining 5 places in this round from countries meeting these criteria:

  • The country falls under lower income, lower-middle income or upper-middle income categories as classified here.

  • There is demand from civil society organisations and/or journalists who wish to benefit from such a scheme.

  • There are some interesting datasets available in the country which would be worth exploring further. These could either be data published by a government or organisation or data collected by an organisation for their own internal use. Digitised or non-digitised—anything goes! We’re keen for a variety of challenges and want the fellows’ help to adapt teaching techniques to a variety of situations.

Our goal is to have global fellows from a wide mix of these countries. Don’t see your country listed? Keep reading to learn how you can get involved!

Got questions? See more about the Fellowship Programme here and have a looks at this Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page. If this doesn’t answer your question, email us on

Not sure if you fit the profile? Have a look at who is a fellow now!

Convinced? Apply now to become a School of data fellow. The application will be open until the 1st of June 2014 and the programme will start in July 2014.

Skillshares and Stories: Upcoming Community Sessions

Heather Leson - April 3, 2014 in CKAN, Events, Network, OKF Brazil, OKF Projects, Open Access, Open Knowledge Foundation Local Groups, School of Data

We’re excited to share with you a few upcoming Community Sessions from the School of Data, CKAN, Open Knowledge Brazil, and Open Access. As we mentioned earlier this week, we aim to connect you to each other. Join us for the following events!

What is a Community Session: These online events can be in a number of forms: a scheduled IRC chat, a community google hangout, a technical sprint or hackpad editathon. The goal is to connect the community to learn and share their stories and skills.

We held our first Community Session yesterday. (see our Wiki Community Session notes) The remaining April events will be online via G+. These sessions will be a public Hangout to Air. The video will be available on the Open Knowledge Youtube Channel after the event. Questions are welcome via Twitter and G+.

All these sessions are Wednesdays at 10:30 – 11:30 am ET/ 14:30 – 15:30 UTC.

Mapping with Ketty and Ali: a School of Data Skillshare (April 9, 2014)

Making a basic map from spreadsheet data: We’ll explore tools like QGIS (a free and Open-source Geographic Information System), Tilemill (a tool to design beautiful interactive web maps) Our guest trainers are Ketty Adoch and Ali Rebaie.

To join the Mapping with Ketty and Ali Session on April 9, 2014

Q & A with Open Knowledge Brazil Chapter featuring Everton(Tom) Zanella Alvarenga (April 16, 2014)

Around the world, local groups, Chapters, projects, working groups and individuals connect to Open Knowledge. We want to share your stories.

In this Community Session, we will feature Everton (Tom) Zanella Alvarenga, Executive Director.

Open Knowledge Foundation Brazil is a newish Chapter. Tom will share his experiences growing a chapter and community in Brazil. We aim to connect you to community members around the world. We will also open up the conversation to all things Community. Share your best practices

Join us on April 16, 2014 via G+

Take a CKAN Tour (April 23, 2014)

This week we will give an overview and tour of CKAN – the leading open source open data platform used by the national governments of the US, UK, Brazil, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Austria and many more. This session will cover why data portals are useful, what they provide and showcase examples and best practices from CKAN’s varied user base! Our special guest is Irina Bolychevsky, Services Director (Open Knowledge Foundation).

Learn and share your CKAN stories on April 23, 2014

(Note: We will share more details about the April 30th Open Access session soon!)


The School of Data Journalism 2014!

Milena Marin - April 3, 2014 in Data Journalism, Events, Featured, School of Data

DJH_5 copy

We’re really excited to announce this year’s edition of the School of Data Journalism, at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, 30th April – 4th May.

It’s the third time we’ve run it (how time flies!), together with the European Journalism Centre, and it’s amazing seeing the progress that has been made since we started out. Data has become an increasingly crucial part of any journalists’ toolbox, and its rise is only set to continue. The Data Journalism Handbook, which was born at the first School of Data Journalism is Perugia, has become a go-to reference for all those looking to work with data in the news, a fantastic testament to the strength of the data journalism community.

As Antoine Laurent, Innovation Senior Project Manager at the EJC, said:

“This is really a must-attend event for anyone with an interest in data journalism. The previous years’ events have each proven to be watershed moments in the development of data journalism. The data revolution is making itself felt across the profession, offering new ways to tell stories and speak truth to power. Be part of the change.”

Here’s the press release about this year’s event – share it with anyone you think might be interested – and book your place now!


April 3rd, 2014

Europe’s Biggest Data Journalism Event Announced: the School of Data Journalism

The European Journalism Centre, Open Knowledge and the International Journalism Festival are pleased to announce the 3rd edition of Europe’s biggest data journalism event, the School of Data Journalism. The 2014 edition takes place in Perugia, Italy between 30th of April – 4th of May as part of the International Journalism Festival.

#ddjschool #ijf13

A team of about 25 expert panelists and instructors from New York Times, The Daily Mirror, Twitter, Ask Media, Knight-Mozilla and others will lead participants in a mix of discussions and hands-on sessions focusing on everything from cross-border data-driven investigative journalism, to emergency reporting and using spreadsheets, social media data, data visualisation and mapping techniques for journalism.

Entry to the School of Data Journalism panels and workshops is free. Last year’s editions featured a stellar team of panelists and instructors, attracted hundreds of journalists and was fully booked within a few days. The year before saw the launch of the seminal Data Journalism Handbook, which remains the go-to reference for practitioners in the field.

Antoine Laurent, Innovation Senior Project Manager at the EJC said:

“This is really a must-attend event for anyone with an interest in data journalism. The previous years’ events have each proven to be watershed moments in the development of data journalism. The data revolution is making itself felt across the profession, offering new ways to tell stories and speak truth to power. Be part of the change.”

Guido Romeo, Data and Business Editor at Wired Italy, said:

“I teach in several journalism schools in Italy. You won’t get this sort of exposure to such teachers and tools in any journalism school in Italy. They bring in the most avant garde people, and have a keen eye on what’s innovative and new. It has definitely helped me understand what others around the world in big newsrooms are doing, and, more importantly, how they are doing it.”

The full description and the (free) registration to the sessions can be found on You can also find all the details on the International Journalism Festival website:


Contacts: Antoine Laurent, Innovation Senior Project Manager, European Journalism Centre: Milena Marin, School of Data Programme Manager, Open Knowledge Foundation,

Notes for editors

Website: Hashtag: #DDJSCHOOL

The School of Data Journalism is part of the European Journalism Centre’s Data Driven Journalism initiative, which aims to enable more journalists, editors, news developers and designers to make better use of data and incorporate it further into their work. Started in 2010, the initiative also runs the website as well as the Doing Journalism with Data MOOC, and produced the acclaimed Data Journalism Handbook.

About the International Journalism Festival ( The International Journalism Festival is the largest media event in Europe. It is held every April in Perugia, Italy. The festival is free entry for all attendees for all sessions. It is an open invitation to listen to and network with the best of world journalism. The leitmotiv is one of informality and accessibility, designed to appeal to journalists, aspiring journalists and those interested in the role of the media in society. Simultaneous translation into English and Italian is provided.

About Open Knowledge ( Open Knowledge, founded in 2004, is a worldwide network of people who are passionate about openness, using advocacy, technology and training to unlock information and turn it into insight and change. Our aim is to give everyone the power to use information and insight for good. Visit to learn more about the Foundation and its major projects including and

About the European Journalism Centre ( The European Journalism Centre is an independent, international, non-profit foundation dedicated to maintaining the highest standards in journalism in particular and the media in general. Founded in 1992 in Maastricht, the Netherlands, the EJC closely follows emerging trends in journalism and watchdogs the interplay between media economy and media culture. It also hosts each year more than 1.000 journalists in seminars and briefings on European and international affairs.

Data Expedition: Investigate the Extractive Industries of Nigeria

Anders Pedersen - November 15, 2013 in School of Data, Transparency

UPDATE: there is now a dedicated page for the Nigeria Extractives Data Expedition here

Who operates the often poisonous wells in the Niger Delta? How does the money flow between the contractors running the oil fields and the government?

Join us for an online Data Expedition to Investigate the Extractive Industries of Nigeria, December 7, Noon-18:00 CET / Lagos (11:00-17:00 London, 8am-1pm New York).

Register for free


The problem: Companies hide in plain sight

Data on the extractives industry is increasingly going public, from EITI‘s information about money flows from companies to governments to the UK’s decision to make its register of the beneficial owners of private companies public in the future. As more information about the oil, gas and mining industries makes it into the public domain, more people living in resource-rich countries have the potential to benefit. Information transparency can lead to greater public scrutiny of these industries that affect so many lives. Databases such as OpenCorporates are rapidly expanding and making companies involved in extractives and other industries easier to trace. Meanwhile, other data published in local media or tucked away in companies’ annual reports has seemingly been hiding in plain sight for years.

What are we going to do?

We want to begin cracking this data open and analysing it to facilitate investigations by journalists, organisations, activists and governments who all need to know how extractives impact people’s lives. In collaboration with OpenOil, School of Data will bring together those with an interest in learning to work with data to help tackle some of the biggest issues in the extractive industries today, with a focus on Nigeria. The Data Expedition will complement our recently launched Follow the Money network, which pushes for the transparency needed to help citizens around the world use information about public money to hold decision-makers to account.

What will you learn?

  • Network analysis: Investigate the corporate supply chain in Nigeria’s oil industry by using networks to see who is connected to whom
  • Corporate research: Cut through generic names like “Shell” and “Exxon” to identify the specific corporate vehicles responsible for activities in places such as the Niger Delta
  • Mapping: Work with maps of geo-coded oil spills, company license areas and other data to draw connections that might not be apparent in text-based media
  • Web-scraping: Find company data and establish leads for other investigations related to the oil industry by scraping the web

Open Knowledge Foundation at Mozilla Festival – meet us!

Beatrice Martini - October 24, 2013 in Events, Join us, Meetups, OKFestival, Open Science, School of Data, Workshop


At the Open Knowledge Foundation we love festivals – and attending is just half of the fun, we really like making things happen. So as soon as our friends over at Mozilla started building up their fabulous Mozilla Festival we decided to roll up our sleeves and join the party!

Mozilla Festival will take place in London (UK) on October 25th-27th. A big group from our team (who? Read on to know more about it) will head over and spread all around town for the duration. Our calendar:

Who of the Open Knowledge Foundation staff members will be at Mozilla Festival and can’t wait to meet you (ping them on Twitter to find them – links below)?

  • Beatrice Martini (Events Coordinator) joining the Mozilla Team as enthusiast friend volunteer, supporting the work of Mozilla Festival’s Events Coordinator (the wonderful Michelle Thorne) and warming up for OKFestival 2014 next July (do join us – sign up on the website for news!)
  • Zara Rahman, Christian Villum, Katelyn Rogers (Community Managers for Local Groups, Working Groups and Open Government Data – not in that order) running the Building collaboration across the open space workshop
  • Michelle Brook (Open Education Community Coordinator) coordinating the Open Science on the Web workshop
  • Michael Bauer, Milena Marin (School of Data) and Heather Leson (Community Engagement Director) rocking the Data Expedition Bootcamp
  • Sander van der Waal (Head of Long Term Projects Unit), James Hamilton (Development Director), Marieke Guy (LinkedUp Project Community Coordinator) meeting, supporting, linking up

Dear festival-goers, see you there – and at our very own upcoming festival, OKFestival 2014!

Investigate the Garment Factories: new Data Expedition

Anders Pedersen - October 4, 2013 in Events, School of Data

Photo credit: Andy Teo

Photo credit: Andy Teo

In May, the School of Data community got together in a Data Expedition to respond to the Rana Plaza catastrophe. They built a crowdsourced database on garment factories and used it to expose the bad safety standards and non-transparency that contributed to the disaster.

Now we are taking the garment factory investigation to the next level with a new online Data Expedition. In collaboration with P2PU and the International Labor Rights Forum, School of Data will bring data explorers from around the globe together online to answer some of the tough questions about the global garment industry. Join us for the Online Data Expedition: Investigate the Garment Factories October 18-20.

What we will do:

  • Geocode garment factories with the Open Street Map community
  • Create visualizations to explore and explain the data from the global garment supply chain
  • Investigate the global supply chains: find new data sources and dig into the key issues in the garment supply chain

Join the Data Expedition using this participant signup form or in the form below!

The Data Expedition will also take place at on-site locations around the world such as Dhaka (Bangladesh). Would you like to help us turn the online expedition into a fantastic global expedition? Sign up to organise a local data expedition or help us run the global expedition! We’ll be there to support you along the way. All you need is a small venue, some great friends, and lots of curiosity.

Get in touch to help facilitate the expedition with this facilitator signup form.

Open Data Training at the Open Knowledge Foundation

Laura James - September 26, 2013 in Business, CKAN, Featured, Open Data, Open Government Data, Open Knowledge Foundation, Our Work, School of Data, Technical, Training

We’re delighted to announce today the launch of a new portfolio of open data training programs.

For many years the Open Knowledge Foundation has been working — both formally and informally — with governments, civil society organisations and others to provide this kind of advice and training. Today marks the first time we’ve brought it all together in one place with a clear structure.

These training programs are designed for two main groups of people interested in open data:

  1. Those within government and other organisations seeking a short introduction to open data – what it is, why to “do” open data, what the challenges are, and how to get started with an open data project or policy.

  2. The growing group of those specialising in open data, perhaps as policy experts, open data program managers, technology specialists, and so on, generally within government or other organisations. Here we offer more in-depth training including detailed material on how to run an open data program or project, and also a technical course for those deploying or maintaining open data portals.

Our training programs are designed and delivered by our team of open data experts with many years of experience creating, maintaining and supporting open data projects around the world.

Please contact us for details on any of the these courses, or if you’d be interested in discussing a custom program tailored to your needs.

Our Open Data Training Programs

Open Data Introduction

Who is this for?

This course is a short introduction to open data for anyone and is perfectly suited to teams from diverse functions across organisations who are thinking about or adopting open data for the first time.

Topics covered

Everything you need to understand and start working in this exciting new area: what is open data, why should institutions open data, what are the benefits and opportunities to doing so, and of course how you can get started with an open data policy or project.

This is a one day course to help you and your team get started with open data.

Photo by Victor1558

Administrative Open Data Management

Who is this for?

Those specialising in open data, whether as policy experts, open data program managers and similar roles in government, civil service, and other organisations. This course is specifically for non-technical staff who are responsible for managing Open Data programs in their organisation. Such activities typically include implementing an Open Data strategy, designing/launching an Open Data portal, coordinating publication processes, preparing data for publication, and fostering data re-use.

Topics covered

Basics of Open Data (legal, managerial, technical); Success factors for the design and execution of an Open Data program; Overview of the technology landscape; Success factors for community re-use.

Open Data Portal Technology

Who is this for?

Those specializing in open data, whether as software or data experts, and open data delivery managers and similar roles in government, civil service, and other organisations. Technical staff who are responsible for maintaining or running an enterprise Open Data portal. Such activities typically include deployment, system administration and hosting, site theming, development of custom extensions and applications, ETL procedures, data conversions, data life-cycle management.

Topics covered

Basics of Open Data, publication process, and technology landscape; architecture and core functionality of a modern Open Data Management System (CKAN used as example). Deployment, administration and customisation; deploying extensions; integration; geospatial and other special capabilities; engaging with the CKAN community.

Photo by Victor1558

Custom training

We can offer training programs tailored to your specific needs, for your organisation, data domain, or locale. Get in touch today to discuss your requirements!

Working with data

We also run the School of Data, which helps civil society organisations, journalists and citizens learn the skills they need to use data effectively, through both online and in-person “learning through doing” workshops. The School of Data runs data-driven investigations and explorations, and data clinics and workshops from “What is Data” up to advanced visualisation and data handling. As well as general training and materials, we offer topic-specific and custom courses and workshops. Please contact to find out more.

As with all of our work, all relevant materials will be openly licensed, and we encourage others (in the global Open Knowledge Foundation network and beyond) to use and build on them.

Using public data to flag tax avoidance schemes?

Jonathan Gray - July 11, 2013 in Data Journalism, Policy, Public Money, School of Data

This post was jointly written by Jonathan Gray (@jwyg), Director of Policy and Ideas at the Open Knowledge Foundation and Tony Hirst (@psychemedia), Data Storyteller at the Open Knowledge Foundation’s School of Data project. It is cross-posted from the School of Data blog.

Today OpenCorporates added a new visualisation tool that enables you to explore the global corporate networks of the six biggest banks in the US.

The visualisation shows relationships between companies that are members of large corporate groups.

You can hover over a particular company within a corporate group to highlight its links with other companies that either control or are controlled by the highlighted company. It also shows which companies are located in countries commonly held to be tax havens.

OpenCorporates control map example

As well as corporate ownership data, OpenCorporates also publishes a growing amount of information detailing company directorships. Mining this data can offer a complementary picture of corporate groupings.

The Offshore Leaks Database from The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, released earlier this year, also contains information about “122,000 offshore companies or trusts, nearly 12,000 intermediaries …, and about 130,000 records on the people and agents who run, own, benefit from or hide behind offshore companies”.

As you may have seen, we’ve recently been thinking about how all of this publicly available information about corporate ownership networks might be used to help identify potential tax avoidance schemes.

While the visualisation that OpenCorporates released today focuses on six corporate networks, we’d be interested in seeing whether we might be able to mine bigger public data sources to detect some of the most common tax avoidance schemes.

As more and more corporate data becomes openly available, might we be able to identify patterns within corporate groupings that could be indicative of tax avoidance schemes? What might these patterns look like? To what extent might you be able to use algorithms to flag certain corporate groupings for further attention? And to what extent are others (auditors, national tax authorities, or international fraud or corruption agencies) already using algorithmic techniques to assist with the detection of such arrangements?

There are several reasons that using open data and publicly available algorithms to detect potential tax avoidance schemes could be interesting.

Firstly, as tax avoidance is a matter of public concern arguably civil society organisations, journalists and citizens should be able to explore, understand and investigate potential avoidance, not just auditors and tax authorities.

Secondly, we might get a sense of how prevalent and widespread particular tax avoidance schemes are. Not just amongst high profile companies that have been in the public spotlight, but amongst the many other tens of millions of companies and corporate groupings that are publicly listed. The combination of automated flagging and collaborative investigations around publicly available data could be a very powerful one.

If you’re interested in looking into how data on corporate groupings might be used to flag possible tax avoidance schemes, then you can join us on the School of Data discussion list.

Hola Escuela de Datos!

Lucy Chambers - June 27, 2013 in Featured, School of Data

Today, we’re pleased to announce the launch of School of Data in Spanish!

The Website was launched at the AbreLatam, on the 24th June, with a workshop focusing on building the Latin American network.

This follows a series of warm up events thanks to the wonderful generosity of our hosts, in particular – the Hacks / Hacks network and ICFJ Knight Fellows in Latin America.

About Escuela de Datos

Escuela de Datos is first and foremost a mechanism to bring the School of Data methodologies and materials to people in their native languages.

Like School of Data, Escuela de Datos will be driven by learning through doing, running data expeditions, data clinics and hands-on tutorials. We will also produce materials as and when they are required, but largely in a reactive manner.

Besides translation, a couple of the courses and examples will be adapted to bring them closer to the local context.

This is a pilot – we hope to be able to do the same for other regions, too. Watch this space!

How can I get involved?

Great! You want to get stuck in, we are currently looking for:

Blog contributions in Spanish about case-studies / tutorials which could inspire or help NGOs or Journalists to work with Data.
Community mentors to lead data expeditions or drop-in clinics with learners.

Why not Escuela de Datos – Mexico, Escuela de Datos – Spain etc. ?

The work before us to close the data literacy gap for NGOs and journalists is immense and we need to work together, share techniques and materials wherever possible for the online work accross borders.

However – individuals and organisations will be very welcome to run data expeditions and other events in their own country!

Who is behind Escuela de Datos?

A lot of the groundwork and translation has been laid thanks to the help of the team of Social-TIC, a Mexico-based NGO dedicated to promoting and empowering social groups to strengthen their work through technology.

However, the team is still small, and we need more organisations and proactive individuals to help drive these projects.

Escuela de datos will have a governance structure which allows it to be driven by and adapt to the needs of the community. More details will be published in the coming weeks.

To get in touch:

About Escuela De Datos

Drop us a line on: escueladedatos [@]

Follow us on @Escueladedatos

About collaborations and internationalisation

Drop us a line on: schoolofdata [@]

Data Expedition story: Why garment retailers need to do more in Bangladesh

Anders Pedersen - June 4, 2013 in School of Data

This post is cross-posted from the School of Data blog

On May 25-26 almost 50 participants from several teams set out on a data expedition to map the garment factories. This is a report from the team comprised of Roy Keyes, Naomi Colvin, Sybern, Bhanupriya Rao and Daniela Mattern. The team used a crowdsourced database on garment factories to expose questionable standards and highlight the need for open supplier lists from all retailers. The article concludes that major retailers like Wal-Mart maintains high levels of opacity around their supply chain and audit standards, which are detrimental to improving working standards in the garment industry.

Not the first time! When the Rana Plaza collapsed killing 1127 people and injuring over 2500 people of its 5000 workforce, it shocked the world and shone an instant light on the working conditions of the garment factories in Bangladesh. While it may have been the worst disaster of our times, it is my no means the first in Bangladesh, where fire due to faulty electrics and short-circuits or building collapses due to structural and maintenance issues are commonplace. Just 8 days later, another fire broke out in one of the Tung Hai group factory killing 8 people. The fire in Tazreen garment factory in November 2012, which killed 100 people should have acted as a wake up call to take health and safety issues seriously. But all it did was lull the government, retailers and the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) into deeper slumber after dubbing it as arson.

Holier-than-thou? The Rana Plaza tragedy seemed like a rude awakening, one that shone a spotlight on the appalling conditions that Human Rights Watch and others have warned about for many years in sweat shops. There was an instant rush by Western retailers who source a major chunk of their ready-made garments from Bangladesh, to appear to be doing the right thing: to be holier-than-thou. Wal-Mart was quick to release a list of 250 factories that it blacklisted from its supplier list in what appears to be a PR exercise, without any transparency around their audit findings or the exact reasons for the blacklist except for a vague statement that the ‘violations could relate to safety issues, social issues, unauthorized subcontracting or other requirements established by our set of Standards for Suppliers. Suffice it to say that, H&M still sources from eleven and Van-Gruppen from two of the factories. In the absence of transparent data on their methods of audit and their findings, simply blacklisting of companies is not very helpful. Wal-Mart’s blacklist consists of large textile groups such as Akh Fashions, Hop Lun and Mohammadi Group that that own several factories and supply to several big western retailers. MJ Group – whose subsidiary, Columbia Garments, is on the Wal-Mart list – lists Replay, New Yorker, C&A, Espirit, GAP, Old Navy and Macys alongside H&M as customers on its website.

Sustainability and Ethical codes The essential point being missed in the rush to appear holier-than-thou is the compliance with ethical standards initiatives that rely largely on a multi-stake holder model. Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) is one such accreditation initiative which has released a list of 194 factories in Bangladesh that meets its standards. That these certified factories constitute a mere 3% of all factories in Bangladesh gives us an insight into how far the industry has to go as far as certification is concerned. Interestingly, 22 of the Wal-Mart blacklisted factories feature on this list. While Wal-Mart was quick to disclose a blacklist in a bid to appear responsible, it would do well to disclose all its suppliers in the interests of transparency and responsible sourcing.

H&M has been much more transparent here, not just disclosing a list of its worldwide suppliers, but also spelling out its stringent audit policy. Only one H&M factory was both WRAP certified and on Wal-Mart blacklist. And the story is a bit more encouraging because 15% of H&M’s suppliers in Bangladesh are WRAP accredited. Brands like Puma (10%) and Varner-Gruppen (15%) show some good signs of sourcing from accredited suppliers as opposed to Timberland and Nike, none of whose suppliers are WRAP accredited. While by no means adequate, it does show that some retailers are better at sourcing ethically than the others.

Table: Which retailers use WRAP Certified factories?



in Bangladesh

WRAP Certified

Retailer % WRAP Certified

























Source: Crowdsourced garment factory list
The blacklist from Wal-Mart is pretty rich considering that along with Gap it has refused to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, instead preferring to rely on their own codes and audits. H&M was the first retailer, followed by 31 others, to sign the agreement which includes provisions for independent safety inspections, mandatory repairs and renovations and a commitment to pay for them and a role for workers and their unions to make garment factories safe in Bangladesh safe. The accord is a watershed moment for the reason that it is a multilateral initiative driven by retailers, global unions IndustriALL and UNI, in alliance with Clean Clothes Campaign and Worker Rights Consortium.

It certainly could be the last! In the aftermath of the Wal-Mart blacklist, other retailers like H&M have rushed in to rethink their sourcing policy and look at new supply chains in Africa and Latin America. While any rethink is welcome, it needs to be in the area of more responsible auditing, greater transparency in supply chains, not just of primary suppliers, but secondary ones where there is astounding opacity. What would be a great step forward for western retailers like H&M is to make public their factory wise audit findings for greater accountability. Simply moving supply chains and tolerating the same conditions will not see the end of tragedies such as the Rana Plaza. There needs to be timely and better audit data as well as supplier data down to the last in the supply chain as well as greater commitment to multi-stakeholder processes such as the Fire safety accord. This could be the beginning of a long-term political engagement on workers safety and better wage and working conditions. This also means that Rana Plaza could be the last in the list of terrible tragedies.

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