Improving working conditions in your clothing supply chain

Case 2: I’m visiting a factory but I’m not a CSR specialist. What can I do to help?

Every time you visit a factory, you have an opportunity to support better working conditions, even if you are not a CSR specialist.  Visits that are mainly for other reasons – like sample review or production checks – can also be used to support your company’s CSR policies.  Here are some things that you can do to help:

  • 1. Find out what your brand is already doing.

    Any discussions you have in a factory should be coordinated with your CSR department.  Visits by staff can support ongoing efforts, but should never try to replace factory checks by trained professionals.

    Before your next factory visit, ask your CSR manager about your company’s strategy for addressing working conditions.  These might include:

    1.  A Code of Conduct for factories

    2.  Regular factory audits

    3.  A grading system that evaluates risks in each factory

    4.  Records of past problems or improvements

    5.  Worker complaint hotlines

    Before you visit a factory, familiarize yourself with your brand’s policies, so that the factory is sure to receive consistent information.

  • 2. Ask you CSR manager what they need help with

    There are no perfect factories, and most have some issues which need attention.  Ask your CSR manager if there are specific issues that you should discuss with the factory’s manager.

    Sometimes a problem was found in the past and it’s good to make sure it has been resolved.

    In other cases, it’s just important for the factory’s managers to hear that your brand is serious about worker welfare.  If the issue is raised every time someone from your brand visits, you help to underline the importance of working conditions.

    In any case, it’s a good idea to ask the experts at your brand what to watch for or what to discuss.

  • Watch for basic health & safety problems.

    A full factory health & safety check requires experienced auditors, because many important problems cannot be found by just looking around.  There are, however some issues that can be identified during a short visit to a factory – things like blocked fire exits or unsafe materials storage.  Even if your brand conducts regular audits, conditions or managers can change between audits, so it’s good to have a look while you’re there.  You can download this health & safety walkthrough guide so you know what to look for.

    Take photos of anything that looks like a problem, and tell your CSR manager about it when you return, so they can follow up with the factory.

    The more you learn about how things work in factories – and how things should work – the more you can do to help keep an eye out for problems during your visits.


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