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, helping them to assess and strengthen their performance, and empowering their workers to act. In other words, audits won’t help us to improve working conditions altogether – but there is still a way to go to gather the important information we need to create change.
In many places, workers are simply not used to being able to influence decision making. The right to freedom of association or acknowledgement of worker’s rights can be unknown. We are changing that through supporting fair contracts and social dialogue.
Each supplier faces their own unique set of challenges, so a one-size-fits-all approach to solving them will not work. Instead, we must partner with our suppliers to enable ownership of the issues and challenges they face in safe and fair labour.
Our Supplier Ownership Programme (SOP) rolled out to 14 key suppliers in 2015 and was expanded to 24 in 2016. As a result, management staff from PUs that employ over 60,000 workers are involved in the programme. 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 a joint on-site visit by the C&A Development Officer and the responsible supplier representative. Once the first batch of suppliers has graduated from the programme, we will expand the programme in 2018.
Supplier Ownership Programme module topics and engagement approach
Building capacity beyond the supplier ownership programme
Although the SOP is the main way we build capacity, it doesn’t end there. UniEthos is a Brazilian NGO which 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 Chain (Valor em Cadeia) project, connecting large organisations with small sewing or construction-related entrepreneurs 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.
Suppliers and subcontractors from C&A Brazil’s supply chain joined C&A Brazil's the Value Chain Programme in the second half of 2016. The course, supported by Instituto C&A and one of its local partners, UniEthos, consists of 10 modules run over 18 months, teaching participants about management, leadership, finance and sustainability. Besides the 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).
We are also piloting new approaches to build awareness and transparency from the ground up. Supply chain analytics company LaborVoices surveys factory workers by phone, asking questions about topics like working conditions, fire safety and satisfaction. It has run in Turkey since 2015, gathering more than 12,000 responses across 30 suppliers and 63 factories.
The results - which are publicly available - have been insightful, highlighting some issues with cleanliness, verbal abuse, and purported underage workers. We have investigated the results of the phone survey through follow-up audits at the factories involved and continually evaluate what we hear from these interactions.
We will continue to build capacity amongst our suppliers, while ensuring workers are aware of their rights, their responsibilities and that their freedom of association is respected. With the Supplier Ownership Programme, the first 14 suppliers will graduate in 2017. These suppliers are expected to gradually run more of their production units through the programme. The second group of 10 suppliers will complete the training modules, conduct workshops and development visits and begin implementation in 2017.