Engaging our supply chains is key to our efforts to improve performance. We don’t own or operate the factories which make our products, so building close and trusting relationships with them is a key factor to our progress in becoming a more sustainable business.
Supporting our factories to work better
Our team goes beyond auditing for compliance. We believe that the more factory management know about the standards we expect and why they matter, the more likely they are to meet them. We’ve also found that in some factories, certain workplace processes and systems are not being used to their full potential, for example specific HR processes. That’s why our Ethical Trade & Environmental Sustainability team works hand in hand with suppliers, their factories and local partners to deliver training and programmes that help factories address locally relevant issues and requirements.
At the heart of our work with management in factories is clear and open dialogue about the standards we expect. Our Ethical Trade & Environmental Sustainability team spends time with factory management to make sure they understand the different provisions set out in the Code of Conduct and what’s expected of them. For example, we might explain why they need to have complete employment records or fire alarms in every section of the building. A lot of the time this is carried out on site as part of one-on-one meetings. However, sometimes we want to reach a number of factories in one go.
That’s why we run external workshops to provide training and support on relevant issues. These workshops give factories and suppliers the chance to learn from one another away from the day-to-day running of the factory. The format depends on what works best for those involved. In Turkey for example, we usually run day-long workshops covering lots of different topics. This might include a focus on individual clauses of our Code of Conduct, an overview of new legislation, such as the UK Modern Slavery Act, a refresher on fire safety training, or even how to plan for an earthquake.
Workshops are usually delivered by a member of our Ethical Trade and Environmental Sustainability team, but we also work with other expert organisations. For example, in South East Asia we joined the Better Work programme, a collaboration between the United Nation’s International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), a member of the World Bank Group.
Better Work is designed to bring together different groups within the garment industry to improve factory working conditions and promote respect for workers’ labour rights. It assesses how each factory complies with international labour standards and offers practical assistance to each factory to help workers and employers address and fix any issues that have been identified. Being part of Better Work means each factory is given support and guidance from one central body. This is an effective approach as it avoids factories participating in multiple initiatives offered by each of the brands or retailers it manufactures for.
We’ve found this range of approaches for supporting the sites in our supply chains to be an effective way to build strong partnerships and drive improvement.