What does it take for a factory to achieve – and maintain – high levels of labour compliance? Two factories producing apparel for Asics, Target, Levi’s and Nike are leading the way and hope to inspire others across the industry.
1 June 2018.
Geneva – Starting this month, Better Work—a joint initiative of the UN’s International Labour Organization and the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group—will begin highlighting garment factories that have demonstrated high levels of labour compliance, more advanced worker-management dialogue, effective management systems and a full commitment to staff learning.
Factories who meet these criteria have implemented robust systems that tackle the root causes of non-compliance and have created more inclusive strategies for ensuring good working conditions moving forward.
Of the more than 1,500 factories currently engaged with the Better Work programme across seven countries, only two have so far met the stringent criteria: Sabrina Garment Manufacturing Corporation, which employs almost 6,000 workers and produces sporting goods for Nike and Asics in Cambodia; and Thuan Phuong Embroideries Garments Company Ltd in Vietnam, which has some 1,250 staff and produces apparel for Target, Levi’s and Nike.
By highlighting these factories, Better Work has an opportunity to identify models of good practice. Identifying the best-performing factories will also allow Better Work, government labour inspectors and international brands to redirect resources toward other factories that are struggling to develop sustainable systems for complying with international and national labour standards.
Using a set of objective criteria and data drawn from Better Work’s advisory visits and unannounced factory assessments, high performing businesses will be offered targeted learning opportunities, access to special events, and enhanced visibility among international brands and retailers. In some cases, they may also receive less frequent Better Work assessments.
“We have deliberately set the bar high,” explains Ivo Spauwen, a Technical Specialist for Better Work. “It is not enough for factories to show high compliance levels, they also have to prove they have the systems and social dialogue in place to sustain those levels of compliance in the future. A number of other factories have almost met the criteria and are determined to do so next time around, but we want these factories to really stand out as leaders, providing a compelling example to others.”
“I’m proud and excited that our efforts has been recognized,” says Nicole Chu, Sustainability Director Manager at Sabrina factory in Kampong Speu, a central province in Cambodia. “It’s an honour that belongs to all Sabrina teams. We are a role model in the industry and we commit to continue accelerating change and driving impact for both workers and management.”
George Yoshimoto, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability Department General Manager at Asics Corporation – one of the brands sourcing from Sabrina – emphasized the importance of the factory’s recognition from his perspective.
“This is a landmark moment. It is a significant achievement that one of our suppliers has been granted this status as it requires the factory to consistently demonstrate not only high levels of compliance but also effective social dialogue, management systems and learning – key ingredients for both good working conditions and successful business. We hope that we can work closely with Better Work to replicate this success and increase the number of suppliers that achieve this status.”
The benefits package planned for the two factories – as well as all future factories that meet the criteria– will be tailored to the business’ specific needs. Sabrina and Thuan Phuong will be featured on the online platform Better Work uses to provide updates to global brands, for example, and the factories will be profiled at events such as Better Work’s national and regional Business Fora, including the forum taking place in Hong Kong on 5 and 6 June 2018.
Meanwhile, other high-performing factories will be advised on how to meet this exacting criteria, with both factory managers and representatives of partner brands provided with regular progress reports and personalized guidance. As many as 100 factories are close to meeting the criteria status and hope to make the cut later this year or in 2019.
Better Work – a collaboration between the United Nations’ ILO and the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group – brings together all levels of the garment industry to improve working conditions and boost the competitiveness of apparel businesses. Currently active in seven countries, the programme creates lasting change through assessments, training, advocacy and research. An independent study of Better Work by Tufts University showed that the programme had made measurable impacts in the lives of millions of workers and their families, and made businesses more competitive and up to 22 per cent more profitable.
Photo courtesy of Sabrina Garment Manufacturing Corporation, used with permission.