Supplier and worker engagement Working together to build a better supply chain

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.

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. 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.

As of 2019, a total of 37 production units are in the programme, a significant increase over 25 in 2018. Of the 37 total, 22 are already certified, with certifications 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:

  • Top management commitment and mindset
  • Commitment from the factory manager to work cross-functionally
  • Competent compliance managers reporting directly to top management
  • Compliance managers with time and resources dedicated to the project
  • Suppliers and production units with at least two people skilled in the Supplier Ownership Programme
  • Aligned targets between compliance and production teams

Supplier Ownership Programme module topics and engagement approach

Supplier Ownership Programme module topics and engagement approach

Where next?

Extending the Supplier Ownership Programme and collaborating on capacity building

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. We will work with the top 15 international brands to align our capacity building programmes into one holistic approach that can be used across multiple countries.