I am sure many of you would love to understand a bit more about how we check that our suppliers ensure fair labour practices, fair wages and safe working conditions in the factories where adidas Group products are manufactured.
As a general principle, suppliers have to comply with our Workplace Standards. We also employ a team of almost 70 specialists around the world, who work daily towards more sustainable business practices. Through hundreds of annual factory audits, our company and independent organisations consistently review and evaluate supplier conduct, work with them to address issues and make improvements where necessary.
In 2014 alone, at the adidas Group we conducted 1,320 factory visits globally, of which 1,193 were audits.
AUDITING IS NOT ENOUGH
That said, our factory monitoring system is evolving, moving away from auditing as a means to track supply chain compliance, to developing self-governance programmes for our suppliers. This approach places a lot more emphasis and effort on improving the factory’s management systems and the technical capacity of managers to deliver against our Workplace Standards.
At the same time, we feel it is also important to establish a direct connection with the people working in the factories.
Therefore, as a means to complement our work we have put in place worker hotlines in every country where we source our products. In China, for example, the hotlines are managed by a local NGO which also offers counselling services to workers and reports back to the adidas Group immediately if critical issues should arise.
In Bangladesh, despite our extremely limited presence, we have engaged an all-woman NGO to interact directly with the workers. Due to their long-standing presence in this space they have built a good rapport with the workers who feel comfortable sharing what’s on their minds, which gives us great insight into the issues on the ground.
DIRECT COMMUNICATION WITH FACTORY WORKERS
As we seek better ways to capture the workers’ views, we are constantly looking for innovative ways to empower factory workers and have their voice heard. This is why in the last couple of years we have expanded an SMS worker hotline service that is managed by the suppliers themselves with support from an NGO in Indonesia and Vietnam.
I am incredibly proud to see how we have managed to expand the project in the course of the last couple of years, now covering 160,000 factory workers and planning to reach 250,000 factory workers by the end of 2015, in 57 factories across Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Keeping in mind that the adidas Group strives for self-governance suppliers, it’s important that the suppliers themselves take initiative in this area.
TRANSPARENCY IS KEY
Through the SMS workers’ grievance system we have transparency and are able to track the complaints and remedial efforts of our suppliers in real time. And we plan to expand this service to Cambodia in 2015 where we will add voice services to be able to include illiterate workers.
The SMS Worker Hotline is filling the gap that sometimes exists between factory management and workers when it comes to communication. By tracking the workers’ use of the worker hotlines we see that the numbers are increasing and the workers are becoming more and more comfortable using this mechanism, and with the responses we also see they are getting more and more open in their communication as well.
The success of the service lies in its ease of use. Workers find it straightforward to send a message and, because it encourages prompt responses from management, workers know that their concerns are being heard.
A good selling point for the workers is that these services provide full anonymity and the suppliers like it because a lot of problems can be solved before they escalate. Being run by an independent service provider ensures worker confidentiality. As part of the project, workers’ mobile numbers are anonymously gathered so management can also send group texts with policy updates or safety messages.
“All in all, the SMS Worker Hotline is a powerful tool which brings the factory management and factory workers closer together, which we know improves greater compliance with our Workplace Standards.” Hilde Gunn Vestad, Director Group Legal & Compliance
More information on the adidas Group’s progress in the area of sustainability will be communicated next week, when we release the 2014 Sustainability Report.