Human rights at F&F
One of our business values is that we treat people how they want to be treated. We want everyone who works for or with Tesco to have their human rights upheld and we know our customers, colleagues and suppliers do too. At F&F, we are committed to improving the lives of everyone involved in creating our clothes.
Under the ‘Improve’ pillar of our human rights approach, we are committed to improving working conditions within our supply chains and empowering workers through continuous improvement programmes. to.
As founding members of the Ethical Trading Initiative, we support our suppliers to comply with the Base Code of the ETI. We monitor our supply base to ensure that human rights standards are upheld around issues such as wages, working hours, health and safety, no child or forced labour, freedom of association and ensuring that discrimination does not take place. Where we find evidence of human rights abuses, we ensure they are addressed and those affected receive redress. We are also committed to supply chain transparency and we have published a full list of our first tier garment supply base.
Our work on human rights is fully integrated within our operations. Across our non-food supply base, we have launched an ‘Ethical First’ initiative with internal colleagues and suppliers. Under this approach, Tesco commits to only buying and selling ethically with all internal functions, including Commercial, committed to working together for an ethical supply base. To support this, all suppliers are assessed on their ethical performance, capability and transparency. Improvement plans are required for those with lower scores and performance linked to future growth in business volumes.
We have also now trained over 200 supplier representatives in Bangladesh, China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Turkey to be ‘Ethical Change-Makers’. The programme includes training on values and mission, knowledge sharing and best practices as well as operational skills such as effective monitoring and change implementation to help drive further compliance with our Responsible Sourcing standards.
Under the ‘Transform’ pillar of our human rights approach we seek to drive transformative industry-wide efforts to address endemic labour and community issues. Some examples are included below:
Eliminating forced labour
We want to ensure that that our workers in supply chain are never forced to work against their own will.
After learning from the Responsible Sourcing Network that over a million Uzbek citizens in Uzbekistan are forced into fields to pick cotton every year or face large fines, we decided to take action. Since 2007 Tesco and F&F asked suppliers not to source cotton from Uzbekistan for any of our products, and we asked that the source of raw cotton used in products is identified. We were one of the first retailers to ban the use of Uzbek cotton in the supply chain.
In 2014, we were proud to solidify our commitment by signing up to the Responsible Sourcing Network’s (RSN) cotton pledge, a key way by which industry can put pressure on the Uzbek Government to end the use of forced labour.
We also now prevent the sourcing of cotton from Turkmenistan, where there are also reports of Government sponsored forced labour.
In Tamil Nadu in India, research has found that it is an entrenched local issue that female millworkers in the region have their freedom of movement restricted. We check to ensure that all mills associated with Tesco do not have such practices and we also have joined forces with other companies in the Tamil Nadu Multi-stakeholder Working Group to promote ethical employment practices in mills in the region. Migrant workers are known to be one of the vulnerable groups most prone to exploitation and forced to work. Whenever we have found cases of passports or identity documents of workers withheld by factories, we make sure that the documents will be returned to workers. We also ensure that the factories in question correct their employment practices to make sure that this will not be repeated in the future. In collaboration with our suppliers, we have also supported hundreds of migrant workers to renew their work permits to ensure they have access to social security and other legal entitlements.
In Turkey, there have been many news reports of Syrian refugees being exploited. We continue to conduct due diligence checks to ensure our suppliers do not have unethical practices towards them. In addition to organizing workshops on ethical employment practices for our suppliers in collaboration with the UNHCR (the United Nations Refugee Agency), we also collaborated with other retailers to publish labour rights booklets in Arabic and make them available to Syrian refugees working in garment factories in Turkey.
Freedom of Association
Freedom of association and collective bargaining is a core international labour standard which we take very seriously. Where disputes between unions and factories appear in our supplier factories, we collaborate with the ETI, local and global unions, as well as other brands and retailers to ensure that freedom of association is respected. In the majority of cases this has led to social dialogue between unions and factories to address the issues together, and in some cases they have resulted in factories’ recognition of unions’ official status as their collective bargaining partner and thereby conducive to later collective bargaining agreements. Here is one example of our collaborative efforts leading to successful reinstatement of unionized workers.
In Bangladesh, India and Turkey we have further collaborated with the ETI to strengthen factories’ worker representation mechanisms, including training to enable free election and empowerment training for elected representatives.
Health and Safety
Our F&F clothing brand sources its clothing from 22 countries, with the vast majority from China, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Turkey. For all factories we source from the principles of safety, partnership, transparency and improvement apply. We provide guidance to our supplier factories to ensure they share our values and understand our requirements, and have practical knowledge to embed them in their everyday operation. This includes on fire safety and use of shared sites. Where factories struggle to meet our ethical standards we try and work with them to improve, however, if they fail to make satisfactory progress they are ultimately removed from our supply base.
We have worked proactively to improve the health and safety of factories in Bangladesh. Before the collapse of the Rana Plaza building in 2013, we started independent structural surveys in all the suppliers’ factories we work with in Bangladesh and Pakistan. After the tragedy, we joined forces with global unions and other international garment companies in the multistakeholder organization, Bangladesh Accord, for bigger impact for all workers in the garment industry Bangladesh. As part of the Accord requirement, all factories Tesco buy from will establish a health and safety committee with worker representation. The committee members are trained to understand health and safety risks and follow up with necessary remediation. We have also committed to supporting the new Transition Accord, with a view to supporting Bangladeshi regulatory counterparts take back control of these issues and provide long-term benefits to Bangladeshi workers.
Reducing Excessive Overtime
In some of our sourcing regions is not uncommon to find factory workers working excessive overtime hours. This could be for many reasons including that factories do not have proper production planning in place, or systems to effectively monitor overtime. Excessive working hours also leads to higher rates of worker absenteeism and turnover, risks to worker health and safety, and lower overall factory productivity and quality. This can further result in backlog of unfinished work and the continued pressure for workers to do lengthy overtime.
We expect all suppliers to comply with the Base Code of the ETI which includes clauses that working hours are not excessive, must comply with national laws and all overtime be voluntary.
Where we find evidence that suppliers are not meeting these requirements, we work with them to improve practices. For example, in 2015 we identified a supplier in Bangladesh that did not have a sufficient time record or working hour’s system in place, and that workers were working excessive hours. After identifying the issue, a vigorous plan was actioned by the Tesco Responsible Sourcing Team in collaboration with factory management. Within a few months of implementing the new measures, the factory was able to bring average monthly working hours back to acceptable limits. Moreover, factory management understand that the changes will help with production efficiency and quality, and keep their high skill workers for longer.
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