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. As of early 2019, the participating suppliers and production units covered more than 67,500 workers, an increase over 2017. The managers involved in the programme report into senior factory management and lead the social and environmental compliance or sustainability programmes in the factories. We have shown that the programme is scalable and will continue with the certification of currently enrolled suppliers.
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.
Eight suppliers are now certified, with a total of 17 certified production units 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 a number of essential factors required for a successful programme:
Supplier Ownership Programme module topics and engagement approach
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 eight suppliers already certified under our Supplier Ownership Programme continued to run more of their production units through the programme.