As part of our commitment to generating positive impact we engage in industry initiatives, and we also enroll suppliers in a range of workplace programmes. These programmes target industry-specific challenges, such as women empowerment, workers' rights and workplace health and safety.
Our vision is to have a supply chain that safeguards the welfare of those working in the factories. To do this, we have the Factory Standards Programme, which safeguards workers from immediate risk, and then we have industry initiatives to raise awareness of occupational health and safety standards among workers, teach suppliers how to address these risks, and thirdly to raise the industry's standards. To do this, we work with the International Accord, the Bangladesh RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), and LABS (Life and Building Safety).
BESTSELLER is a signatory to the International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry. It is a legally binding agreement between global brands and retailers, IndustriALL Global Union and UNI Global Union, and eight of their Bangladeshi affiliated unions to work towards a safe and healthy garment and textile industry.
As per the agreement, 100 percent of our presence in Bangladesh is covered by the Accord programme. This means all factories are subject to regular inspections from engineers. Inspectors produce reports and Corrective Actions Plans (CAPs) for remediation, BESTSELLER monitors factory progress on remediation, and informs the Accord Secretariat when they have been completed. Suppliers that do not agree to Accord monitoring and training are not onboarded into our supply chain.
As a signatory to the International Accord, BESTSELLER agrees to continue the health and safety programme in Bangladesh through the RMG Sustainability Council (RSC), which is responsible for the continuation of the inspections, remediation and workplace programmes as of June 2021. We fully support the goal of the RSC to become Bangladesh's sector-wide factory safety programme.
LABS aims to improve worker safety in the garment industry by identifying and remediating fire, electrical and structural building safety risks at factories. LABS does this through developing a single country-based, life-safety programme to assess factories and provide a framework for monitoring and ensuring mitigation and remediation. We have been a steering committee member of LABS and supported the development of its programmes and eventually piloted the programme with some of our suppliers in India.
Strong social dialogue is key to ensuring the opinions of factory workers and factory management come together in factory decision-making processes. It is a key mechanism for empowering workers to address a wider range of human and labour rights risk including but not limited to discrimination, occupational health and safety, sexual harassment and gender-based violence, as well as wages and working time.
Our social impact work is focused on raising awareness of and promoting Freedom of Association. We work to create greater awareness among workers, supplier management, and brands on the value mechanisms such as collective bargaining agreements and dispute resolution mechanisms bring to the industry. Most of this effort is spent on working within ACT.
Since BESTSELLER joined ACT in 2018, we have been working both internally and externally. Within BESTSELLER, we are working to transform our own internal purchasing practices, while externally we are engaging with the national working groups in key sourcing countries.
Our work in key sourcing countries is ground-breaking. For example, in Myanmar, as part of ACT, we collaborated with local unions and manufacturers’ associations to create the industry's first negotiated dispute resolution mechanism. This means that parties agreed to respect freedom of association in the country, establishing a clear and common standard on the correct, ILO-endorsed system for our suppliers to solve disputes with workers’ associations.
At the factory-level, we support and encourage the use of dispute resolution mechanisms (DRMs), whereby grievances are aired and remediated in a recognised and respected forum, such as the Accord/RSC. In cases where DRMs don’t exist at a country level, we support the development of them, such as the ILO-endorsed Myanmar DRM, developed by ACT, which provides a platform to navigate and solve disputes between local labour unions and factory management in a peaceful and efficient way, providing workers with protection and support. These mechanisms cover Freedom of Association disputes and disputed cases linked to the dismissal of workers, wages and severance payments.
Having these mechanisms in place, however, is not the full solution. In some of our sourcing countries, there is a general lack of understanding of workers’ basic rights, as well as strategies and mechanisms for ensuring those rights are protected. At BESTSELLER, we want to support our suppliers in this capacity building, so we have teamed up with Quizrr – a global organisation that provides digital training solutions specifically for educating workers and mid-level managers using real-life situation videos and questionnaires.
We recognise that our sourcing countries have different expectations of gender, reflective of local cultural and legal contexts. Nonetheless, we are committed to achieving equal opportunities and responsibilities for women at our suppliers, regardless of where they are in the world.
Since 2012, BESTSELLER has been working with HERproject – an initiative run by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) that develops tailor-made workplace education programmes that increase well-being, confidence, and economic potential of low-income women working in global supply chains. As well as giving women important life skills, our suppliers enrolled in the programmes report improved workplace communication and higher productivity, and workers report feeling more self-confident entering dialogue with management to find common solutions to everyday issues.
Historically, BESTSELLER has worked with BSR to deliver women’s empowerment programmes in Bangladesh, India, China, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and most recently Pakistan. However, with BSR not covering Turkey, which accounts for roughly 15 percent of our sourcing volumes, we have partnered with local NGO, ACEV – to develop and implement women's empowerment programme for our suppliers in Turkey.
Our latest salient human rights risk assessment highlighted that migrant workers (both internal and international, including internally displaced persons and refugees) face heightened risk of discrimination in the global apparel supply chain.
This discrimination can take many forms, such as pay discrimination and deductions, poor working conditions, and forced labour. Given the well documented increased risk for human and labour rights abuses, we have committed to extra due diligence to safeguard this group.
Consequently, we have developed a migrant labour policy, and are developing a Migrant Labour Social Impact Strategy, working out what in-factory initiatives or industry advocacy we can engage with to better safeguard migrant labourers' rights in our supply chain.