Some 1,900 factories in which about 820 suppliers make our products employ about 1.6 million people alone. About 60% of them are women, often important income providers for their families. At the same time, human rights standards and environmental awareness are less developed in many of these countries.
We have seen great improvements over the years in many areas. Child labour, for example, is very rare today in the export garment industry. Systemic challenges such as long working hours and a lack of functioning industrial relations remain common issues in many markets and are clear focus areas. Wages and workplace safety are key concerns, particularly in Bangladesh and Cambodia.
In a globalised world, it is not a question for a company like ours whether to be present in emerging markets. It’s a matter of how we do it. We want to make sure that our presence results in better livelihood for garment workers and positive development for their communities. Respect for people and the environment is very much part of our values and we rely on stable sourcing markets with skilled workers for our future growth. We want to use our influence to promote better working conditions and environmental consciousness throughout our value chain – from working with the individual factories to promoting systemic change in entire countries and our industry. This includes using our influence to achieve a fair living wage and decent working hours for all garment workers. We stand behind the right to freedom of association and work systematically to strengthen industrial relations and collective bargaining.
Working together with several different stakeholders and partners is the key to lasting change. We choose and reward responsible partners who share our values and are willing to work transparently with us to improve their social and environmental performance. We look for long-term partnerships with our suppliers and engage in strategic partnerships with the most progressive ones. We set high standards for our suppliers and regularly monitor how well they live up to them. Likewise, in order for our partners to deliver their very best, we need to be a good partner ourselves by, for example, providing training and support and rewarding good sustainability performance with better business.
Read more here about the conscious actions we are taking to fulfil our commitment to choosing and rewarding responsible partners.