Beyond Audit

We regularly engage our supply chain with face-to-face visits to factories to deepen relationships with factory management, speak with workers and gain a better understanding of the social contexts in which our products are made. We also regularly undertake additional control audits at factories to test the information we had previously collected about our supply chain which provides us with deeper insights to inform and strengthen our audit program, and the way that we engage with our supply chain. 

Many of our factories have established channels that are already operating, such as worker committees, local unions or simply raising concerns directly with management. The ideal outcome is that those in-factory channels are the first port of call to efficiently and effectively deal with workers' concerns. However, if those channels are not functioning well – or at all – workers’ concerns may go unresolved and can escalate over time. By introducing additional independent mechanisms accessible to workers, we seek to support factory management to improve their understanding of worker perspectives, identify any gaps in their in-factory channels and respond more effectively.

In 2020, we built upon our factory audit program to provide an additional level of assurance for workers in our supply chain to ensure their concerns are heard and resolved. To support this, we established an in-factory worker-centric grievance mechanism in one of our major factories in Bangladesh where the vast majority of the workers in our private label supply chain are located. With great cooperation and support from our supplier, already very engaged with our ethical trade agenda, we rolled out an independent and confidential helpline to over 1400 workers. Given the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, we implemented training via a ‘Train the Trainer’ approach with factory management and a digital roll out of messages via workers’ mobile phones to provide information about the helpline. Workers have begun to use the service to raise issues relating to termination procedures, compensation and benefits and these issues have been promptly resolved by the factory. To ensure its ongoing efficacy, we will be deploying various methods including push notifications for new starters, refresher training, factory newsletters and worker surveys.

Since 2018 we have regularly hosted supplier & factory conferences, both in person and digitally, where we provided training for factory managers in health and safety management, as well as human resources management. Past sessions have focused on our expectations of supply chain standards, including intractable issues that appear during the audit process such as working hours and social insurance. We have also provided training on modern slavery risk indicators and issues that may or may not be identified during an audit process, as well as training on other sustainability topics such as packaging, more sustainable materials and responsible chemicals management. The purpose of us holding these sessions is to help our partners understand our requirements and provide factories with information that helps them implement positive change in their working environments. Our suppliers have also been involved in external training programs on worker representation in Bangladesh, modern slavery and a Better Buying program on purchasing practices.

Our original plan for supplier training in 2020 involved face-to-face sessions for suppliers in sourcing countries. Given the pandemic, we pivoted towards delivering online training and successfully provided sessions attended by our suppliers and factories on topics including working hours and wages. Further sessions are scheduled for 2021 as we continue to see their value in capacity building within our private label supply chain.