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Helping our clothing suppliers respond to Covid-19

James Goodman
International Sourcing Director

Article updated on 23 July 2020

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis we’ve provided you with updates on how we’re ensuring the safety of our customers and colleagues, and how we continue to support communities, partners and suppliers in every country where we operate. With this in mind I wanted to provide an update on the help we’re providing our clothing suppliers.

We source our clothing from a number of countries including Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Turkey, and we know the Covid-19 crisis has proved to be an extremely difficult time for many of our suppliers. We’ve been taking steps in several key areas to ensure our suppliers and their staff are supported.

Paying for orders:
As soon as it became clear the pandemic would affect things like clothing orders and our suppliers’ ability to operate their businesses, we committed to paying for every clothing order that had been completed or is in production. This has been the case from the start of the Covid-19 crisis. We have seen reports that some clothing manufacturers have cancelled orders with suppliers. I’d like to stress we have not cancelled any orders with our suppliers and any claims we have done are completely wrong. In order to provide our suppliers with certainty and the confidence to invest, we will not be making any changes to our current payment terms. We are also working with suppliers to use fabric they had already bought in anticipation of future orders.

Workers’ pay:
Tesco has a rigorous approach to ensure the hard-working people in our clothing supply chain are paid correctly for both standard wages and overtime premiums. Our team of 35 Responsible Sourcing experts across eight Asian sourcing countries conduct weekly calls with all our partner clothing factories. During these calls payment of workers is discussed. During Covid-19 visits to factories have not always been possible so we’ve requested copies of records where needed. Whenever a shortfall is identified our team work with the supplier to create a plan with timelines that provide a deadline for payment to workers. This approach has been applied rigorously throughout Covid-19, with more resource focused on this point given the risks of underpayment to workers. On the very few occasions we identified any underpayment, further orders were not placed until these wages were paid and evidence of this was shared.

We are also working with IndustriALL through our ACT group (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) membership to understand trade union insights on the ground. Where a complaint has been made that payment has not been received by a union member in one of our partner factories, this is thoroughly investigated by the Tesco team to ensure full payment is made.

Protective equipment:
We have been following up closely with all our supplier factories on protective equipment throughout the Covid-19 crisis to ensure they have health and safety measures in place. Our team has been in direct contact with more than 540 factories for both Clothing and General Merchandise, and where necessary, requested additional photo or video evidence, or carried out ‘virtual visits’, to ensure proper precautionary measures and PPE are in place. We are also partnering with the ETI and ILO on safe travel to work initiatives.

We continue to work closely with our suppliers and industry bodies in the countries where we source from including the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA), and the ACT group to ensure our suppliers are able to work with us now and in the future, and ensure their workers are supported as best as possible during this difficult time.

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