Although we have a rigorous auditing process and maintain a zero-tolerance approach to serious issues at our suppliers’ production units, more needs to be done to normalise good practice across the entire industry. That's why we are moving beyond auditing and compliance. To achieve our vision of safe and fair workplaces for all, we must employ a two-pronged approach: building our suppliers’ capacity to assess and strengthen their performance, and empowering their workers to act.
In many places, workers are simply not used to being able to influence decision-making. The right to freedom of association or acknowledgement of workers’ rights can be unheard of. We are changing that through supporting fair contracts and social dialogue.
Supplier Ownership Programme
Each supplier faces their own unique set of challenges, so a one-size-fits-all approach will not work. Instead, we must partner with our suppliers to enable ownership of the issues and challenges they face in this area.
We launched a Supplier Ownership Programme (SOP) with 14 key suppliers in 2015 and expanded it to 24 in 2016. We have continued working with the same number of suppliers and production units during 2017, covering over 60,000 workers. The managers involved in the programme report into senior factory management and lead the social and environmental compliance or sustainability programmes in the factories.
The programme contains seven key interactive modules – from an overview on management systems to worker communication and the environment. Each module includes a one- or two-day workshop, home assignments and joint on-site visits by the C&A Development Officer and the responsible supplier representative.
Two suppliers are now certified and have a certified production unit in the programme, validated by the C&A Sustainable Supply Chain (SSC) team and Elevate, a third-party auditing company. This means that we trust the supplier to have the necessary social compliance management systems at a corporate level, and that the factories themselves have established management systems.
Our experience so far shows six essential factors required for a successful programme:
Supplier Ownership Programme module topics and engagement approach
Building capacity beyond the Supplier Ownership Programme
UniEthos is a Brazilian NGO that supports businesses to integrate sustainability practices into their supply chains. C&A, Instituto C&A, Instituto Cyrela and UniEthos have partnered to deliver the Value in Chain (Valor em Cadeia) project, connecting large organisations with sewing- or construction-related entrepreneurs and helping them to build capacity.
Both sectors contain many small businesses with insufficient resources, often resulting in poor working conditions. The programme teaches small enterprises how to implement and maintain a sustainable business model.
During 2017, 57 participants from suppliers and subcontractors from C&A Brazil’s supply chain joined the Value in Chain project. The course, supported by Instituto C&A and UniEthos, one of its local partners, consists of 10 modules run over 18 months, teaching participants about management, leadership, finance and sustainability. In addition to these classes, the entrepreneurs receive 20 hours of consultancy on topics such as workers’ rights, health and safety, and pricing a business plan focused on sustainability. The initiative is also supported by ABVTEX (Brazilian Association of Textile Retail), the Social Service of Building (SeconCiSP) and Inter American Development Bank (IDB). 59% of participants increased their sales after completing the course, and 41% reduced their energy consumption.
Extending the Supplier Ownership Programme
We will continue to build capacity amongst our suppliers, while ensuring workers are aware of their rights and responsibilities, and that their freedom of association is respected. In 2018, the two suppliers already certified under our Supplier Ownership Programme will continue to run more of their production units through the programme. We also expect another eight suppliers to begin certification.