Improving the supply chain

We contribute to good working conditions and compliance by respecting human rights in the supply chain, as well as to improving environmental conditions that take place in the various steps.

Improving the supply chain

The textile sector employs many people, unfortunately many workers are still employed under very poor social conditions. A good long-term relationship with our suppliers is the basis for tackling social problems in production, lifting the factories to a higher level through training and workshops and improving the quality of work.

WE Fashion does not have its own factories but works together with specialized suppliers who also produce for many other brands. For many years, WE Fashion has been working on improving the social conditions of employees involved in production. By working together with our suppliers we have been able to build a solid and strong social management system. With that system working conditions are checked, and improvement is being done. This leads to progress in the lifes of the employees.

The textile chain is extensive and includes many steps, all of which contribute to the creation of our clothing. A simple overview runs from farmer to trader, spinner, weaver, sewing factory, laundry and distribution centre. Fibers, fabrics and clothing are also traded, transported and stored between all these steps. We want to contribute to good working conditions and compliance with human rights in the supply chain, as well as to improving environmental conditions that take place in the various steps.

Our goal for the coming years is to structurally improve the sustainability within the supply chain, with an emphasis on all the factories in which our goods are produced and washed, and where materials are made. We do this both at factories where we make direct purchases, but also at factories where we do not buy directly. It is our job to keep track of the problems in the supply chain, thus we will keep looking for relevant projects and initiatives from other companies, governments and stakeholders to which we can connect.

WE Fashion has set three goals to achieve the above, the goals are again subdivided into different actions.

  • Improvement of social conditions in production
  • Improve the lifes of workers
  • Improve the environment in production

Are you interested in reading more about what we have achieved? You can find our sustainability report on the Transparency page.

WE Fashion advocates more transparency in the clothing industry

After signing the Convenant Duurzame Kleding en Textiel (CKT) in 2016, WE Fashion took the next step in achieving greater transparency within the clothing industry. On November 12th 2019, the retailer put its signature under the Transparency Pledge. This is an international initiative, created to achieve a common minimum standard for transparency within the clothing industry. By signing the Transparency Pledge, companies commit themselves to publicly communicating their production locations, including potential sub-suppliers of production processes that are needed to make the end product. "With the signing of the Transparency Pledge and the publication of our supplier list, we hope to be able to make a positive contribution to making the clothing industry more transparent. In addition to our own control mechanism, publishing the list offers stakeholders the opportunity to warn us when potential abuses are observed in factories where we produce. This allows us to take immediate action if necessary. Our ultimate goal is to make fashion more sustainable by finding the right balance between people, the environment and economic interests with stakeholders. WE Fashion bears its responsibility and we believe that everyone should be able to trust that we make products with respect for people and the environment. Now and in the future", says Joris Aperghis, CEO WE Fashion Europe.

The WE Code Of Conduct for suppliers

The WE Code of Conduct for suppliers is a broad code of conduct that applies to all our suppliers. We have developed this because we also work with factories that are under the control of other systems.

The WE Code of Conduct is part of the Supplier Declaration, and contains the 13 themes of the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) Code of Conduct. In addition, it contains themes that we also find important, such as transparency, animal welfare and the safe use of chemicals. The WE Fashion Code of Conduct and the supplier's declaration must be signed by every supplier who delivers to us, and every factory that produces for us. The document can be found on the Transparency page.

All factories are under control

We attach great importance to the conditions in which our garments are made. Factories can only produce for WE Fashion if they can present a valid audit report. No valid audit means no order. This strict principle also applies to new suppliers.

Controlled factories are included in our ordering system after a thorough selection process that also includes social conditions. When adding new suppliers and factories, different departments like Purchasing, Quality, Sustainability and Finance must approve. The final approval comes from the CEO. This concerns all plants that sew, knit and link (knit parts together) and which produce accessories and shoes.

100% of the goods for WE Fashion are produced in controlled factories.

Control of social conditions with BSCI

WE Fashion has been a member of the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) since 2004. The WE Code of Conduct follows the BSCI principles and requires that it be implemented by suppliers and the factories in risk countries they use. The code consists of 13 principles, which are checked by independent auditors, so that we know that the factories meet the minimum requirements.

There are factories that need to make improvements and therefore do not get the highest score. The purpose of the audits is to gain insight into the problems that can occur in a factory. With this insight the management of the factory can improve the working conditions. BSCI works with a two-year audit cycle, which means that a factory must be inspected at least every two years. If a factory has to make improvements during this period, an interim inspection will also take place.

WE Fashion is a member of the BSCI, but also accepts audits from other systems such as SA8000, SMETA, FWF, WRAP and GOTS. Factories in low-risk countries do not have to carry out audits to be accepted for production. For more information see https://www.amfori.org/content/amfori-bsci.

Improvements in factories

In order to work on improving the problems found and to find a way to ensure the correct way of working in day-to-day management, a factory receives an improvement plan after each audit. Factories can also participate in BSCI workshops on managing social conditions in general, or on specific topics.

The sustainability team helps factories to bring their social standard to an acceptable level. We do this by supporting factories in solving the problems mentioned in the improvement plan. If a factory is unable or unwilling to improve, then we will eventually stop production in that factory.

Living wage

A living wage is a wage that is sufficient to meet the basic needs of a family of average size in the country where that family lives. In many production countries the minimum wage is not enough to maintain a family. This increases the risk of overtime, child labor and forced labor.

Over the years 2014 and 2016, we conducted research into the wages paid to employees in factories producing WE Fashion. We looked at the lowest paid wages in all factories, both from direct suppliers and subcontractors. We will repeat this study over 2018 again.

In the research we check whether the paid wages meet the statutory minimum wages. In addition, we also compare wages with various Living Wage Benchmarks. In 2016 the statutory minimum wage was paid to all employees in all factories.

WE Fashion will join the Living Wage project, which will be launched by the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile in 2019, looking at 3 different components that could influence wages in production countries: living wage, social dialogue and sustainable purchasing practices.

Sustainable purchasing

WE Fashion buys multiple collections every year. We know in which factory the clothes are made, and we know the conditions in the factories. And we often already have years of collaberation with our suppliers. Nevertheless, it is good to look at how the purchasing process of the clothing has gone. Do we give enough time to produce? Are we reasonable if there are problems? Do we listen sufficiently to the supplier? To get more insight into this, we ask our suppliers to assess our purchasing method. They can do this anonymously via the Better Buying initiative. With the results we have the right recommendations on how to improve our purchasing method.

Sustainability training

The BSCI has an extensive package of training courses available for factories, both in general so that factories can prepare for a check, and specifically for one of the themes. Factories make much use of the training courses, they get new insights and learn from other factories how they can tackle the improvements.

The Bangladesh Accord also organizes training courses, but then for all employees of a factory. They learn how a safe working environment should look like, and what to do in case of emergency. They are also trained in tracking procedures, so that the acquired knowledge does not get diluted over time.

WE Fashion's sustainability team provides training to the purchasing department several times a year, to share the latest developments, but also on specific topics, such as social compliance in the factories, buying practices, the use of sustainable materials etc. In addition, the team also provides workshops for store managers.

Complaints of employees in production

BSCI requires factories to set up a complaints mechanism for their employees, which is checked during the audits. Other systems have similar requirements.

In Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Accord has set up a complaints line. Employees of factories can report unsafe situations there. The line is used regularly, the reported problems are then dealt with jointly by the factory, brands and the Accord team.

The Bangladesh Accord

WE Fashion signed the Bangladesh Accord in May 2013. This is an agreement between fashion brands, international and local trade unions and social organizations. With the signing of the Accord, WE Fashion has promised to improve the construction safety and safe working conditions of employees in factories in Bangladesh. In 2018 WE Fashion renewed this promise by signing for the Transition Accord.

The Accord contains six important parts:
  • Brands and trade unions have signed a legally binding agreement to ensure a safe working environment in the clothing industry in Bangladesh.
  • The independent inspection program is supported by the affiliated brands, and involves employees and trade unions.
  • The names of factories are published, along with the inspection reports and improvement plans.
  • Brands must ensure that, if necessary, sufficient resources are available to implement the improvement plans.
  • Committees for health and safety have been set up in all factories.
  • There is a comprehensive training program for employees, there is a complaints procedure for employees, and they have the right to refuse unsafe work.

For more information see https://bangladeshaccord.org/.

Activities against child labor

WE Fashion has signed the Cotton Pledge of the Responsible Sourcing Network. The Responsible Sourcing Network is working hard to ban child labor and forced labor from the cotton fields of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The exclusion of cotton from Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is also included in the WE Code of Conduct.

Projects in Turkey and India to change child labor risks

Several brands and non-governmental organizations worked together on a pilot project to map the clothing and cotton chain of the suppliers in Turkey. The aim of this project was to investigate the risks of child labor in all layers of these supply chains. WE Fashion participated in this project. Although the research team in Turkey has been able to conduct research deep into the chain, it has not been possible to map the entire chain to a farmer in Turkey. No children were found in the supply chains of the brands.

From this project we learned that children work in areas where there are many refugees, and where the cotton is largely harvested by hand. In addition, it is necessary for brands to map the entire supply chain to know where to address issues, and then work with local civil society organizations to solve the problems.

And finally, companies need to work with governments to improve inspection and enforcement at lower levels in the supply chain. The main cause of child labor is the poverty of the family, which can be tackled if the government checks better on paying the statutory wages.

As a next step, WE Fashion has teamed up with other brands and civil society organizations to map suppliers' supply chains in India and to work on a training program with a local non-governmental organization for factory training, including factories located lower down the chain, like spinning mills.