About 80% of the workforce at the suppliers where the adidas Group sources its products are women in a reproductive age group. As a company which wants to positively impact the lives of the people that manufacture our products, we have over the years developed programmes and initiatives which benefit this very specific group: women.
These programmes are of course focused on the countries where we source. For example, in the Americas we work together with women’s and labour rights groups on the main issues affecting women workers in the apparel industry in Central America.
As far as Asia is concerned, I would like to share an initiative that the adidas Group has supported for no less than 14 years: the work of Marie Stopes International. Since I joined the adidas Group, I have been following this work. Back then, we developed a project, funded by the adidas Group, where eleven of our key suppliers in Vietnam collaborated to raise awareness among their female workforce on reproductive health, family planning, sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS and to prevent unwanted pregnancies. In fact, we see a direct link between absenteeism, sick leave and turnover rates in factories and lack of awareness on these issues. Therefore, a project like this would be very important.
Our suppliersembraced this opportunity to keep their workers safe and healthy but also saw an opportunity to reduce worker turnover. With a healthier and happier workforce, we would also expect higher productivity in the factories. A win-win situation. The project lasted for 4 years. To be able to reach as many workers as possible, Marie Stopes trained workers, who in return would then be able to train other fellow workers, ensuring that as many people as possible in the factories could be reached.
Factories even have their own hospital
Marie Stopes also built capacity with doctors and nurses working in factory hospitals. Yes, that’s right – some of the adidas supplier factories are so large they have their own hospital on site! The project resulted in static clinics (hospitals) and mobile clinics (a van equipped with medical supplies to travel from factory to factory). The static clinics service both the surrounding factories and also the greater community. The static and mobile clinics are now sustainable, helping thousands of workers and nearby communities.
Marie Stopes’ work in Vietnam has been publicly acknowledged by the local government for the support MSI has provided to their country given that they lack funds and resources to reach the entire population with awareness campaigns on their own.
The project’s success brought the European Union to donate a considerable amount of money to run a similar project, this time with a main focus on national migrant workers (most migrant workers in Vietnam come from other provinces in the country). The goal of this two-year project is, in addition to the activities described above, to also develop guidance material for suppliers on how to manage reproductive health, and take the next step to include training on various rights of workers, such as non-discrimination of women, workers’ financial rights and workplace-related safety. This guidance has been developed by UNIDO and is under review. The plan is to reach more than 160,000 workers and people in nearby communities in Vietnam with this information.
The adidas Group is one of three brands supporting this second round of a larger-scale MSI project and this is why I travelled to Vietnam in August to speak in front of government officials, NGOs, suppliers and Vietnamese media to raise awareness about the importance of this project and its focus.
We will continue to support their good work with our suppliers and I am personally really excited about the future developments of this cooperation.