Healthy and safe working conditions
Our clothes are mainly manufactured in China, Bangladesh, India and Turkey. Kappahl does not have its own factories, but partners with a few select suppliers, which makes a close partnership even more important. To achieve that, around ten Kappahl employees work actively on-site in our manufacturing countries to ensure compliance with our requirements regarding the environment and working conditions.
Here’s how our manufacturing was distributed over the last year:
- China: 40%
- Bangladesh: 41%
- India: 5%
- Turkey: 8%
- Myanmar: 3%
- Sri Lanka: 2%
- Romania: 1%
Footnote: Excluding production via agents and importers.
We put requirements on our suppliers
We are committed to ensuring that the people who work for our suppliers have decent working conditions, reasonable working hours and a decent wage. But how do we make sure that happens in practice? This is where our Sustainability Commitment (previously Code of Conduct) for suppliers comes into the picture. This is a key element in the contracts we have with our suppliers, and covers areas such as freedom of association, wages, working hours and workplace safety. And, not least, our zero tolerance of forced labour and child labour. In addition, our suppliers undertake to comply with our requirements regarding business ethics and anti-corruption practices.
We perform inspections and continuous follow-up visits at every supplier facility in order to drive improvements on working conditions. If we identify a need for improvement, the supplier is required to create an action plan, clearly stating when the actions are to be completed.
A living wage – a complex issue
The concept of a living wage is one of the biggest challenges we face in our manufacturing countries. The minimum wage level determined by the government of each country does not always equate with a living wage. In other words, a wage that makes it possible for the worker to pay the costs of basic needs such as food, water, housing, healthcare, education, clothing, transport and child care. The gap between the minimum wage and a living wage may be substantial.
Many stakeholders have a say
While we know that wage levels are actually rising in our manufacturing countries, we also know that they are rising from a low baseline, and that the rise is slow.
So why is this so difficult to achieve? Can the wages not just be put up here and now?
Regrettably, the answer is no. The textiles manufacturers are just some of the many stakeholders influencing the situation. And the wage issue is linked to social challenges in these countries.
In Bangladesh, for example, the wage issue is closely linked to both social dialogue and trade union relations. To achieve long-term sustainable change, the government, employers and workers have to agree on labour market issues through cooperation and collective bargaining. This is how to achieve higher wage levels, or a living wage.
Kappahl’s responsibility as buyers in Bangladesh means working to ensure that improvements continue to be made, and accelerate. We do that by choosing suppliers who wants to work on this issue, but also through extensive industry alliances. The living wage issue requires long-term actions and persistent advocacy and lobbying.