We understand our member brands are facing extremely difficult times and are doing everything they can to keep their business afloat. This unprecedented situation will impact on consumers, brand and retail employees, sales, factories, the lives of factory workers and any efforts to improve working conditions. Despite these challenging circumstances, Fair Wear still expects members to conduct human rights due diligence as much as possible. Responsible purchasing practices and maintaining a good dialogue are needed now more than ever. Brand responses and policies should include a gender analysis to identify the differing risks and impacts on workers in low power positions.
Below are a first set of guidelines. Fair Wear will continue to update its policies as the situation develops.
Recommendations for members
Support the workers
If forced to make unusual sourcing decisions during this period, always take the potential effect on workers’ lives into account and discuss possible solutions with the supplier.
Ensure factories treat affected workers or workers in quarantine at least according to local laws and guidelines. See the specific country sheets here.
If a factory is forced to close or is struggling to pay its workers, assess whether it is possible to support your supplier financially to help pay wages, especially if you take up a high percentage of their production capacity or if you own the factory. It is important that brands share the responsibility of ensuring that wages already earned by workers are paid and that arrangements are made to provide support for workers during shut-down periods.
Make sure workers can access the Fair Wear complaints helpline. If the factory remains open, you can ask the factory to take a photo of the worker information sheet poster for confirmation. Whenever possible, distribute worker information cards. Brands should continue to reiterate to suppliers what their expectations are when it comes to upholding the rights of workers and make it clear that they will continue to support workers’ rights.
Suggest factories provide workers with contact information for local civil society organisations that can help them with additional concerns they may be facing at this time. Examples include: support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, sexual and reproductive healthcare, food packages or medical supplies.
Ask suppliers how they have applied the local government’s requirements. What were the local requirements? How is the factory implementing these, or how have they? What are the difficulties or challenges? How can the brands help?
Continue to make responsible purchasing practices and support suppliers as much as possible in this crisis. Good communication with suppliers and customers is essential.
Anticipate changes or delays in production and be flexible about delivery dates, payment terms, and financial liability.
Do not cancel orders that are (almost) ready to be shipped, that are already in production or for which fabric is already bought and/or cut.
In collaboration with suppliers, consider the following measures where possible: Prioritise orders based on real demand. Accept extended lead times and push back sales meetings to allow for later delivery. Investigate whether slowing down capacity and spreading orders over a longer period is an option. Or whether some orders can be split or prioritised over others.
This situation should not automatically lead to postponement of scheduled payments. We understand the predicament of ensuring payment of brand staff’s salaries, but also investigate how to avoid affecting suppliers. See the below section on how we collaborate to influence both local and European governments in consultation with employers’ associations and our union partners.
If you need to shift production, you can reduce risks by shifting production to existing suppliers that have already been part of your monitoring system.
Do not terminate the business relationship with your supplier. If all other options are exhausted, discuss scenarios and solutions with your supplier and consider a responsible exit strategy.
Collaborate with and support each other
Investigate and stay updated on the local situations in the production countries. Work even more closely with other brands and local stakeholders to collect all relevant documentation. Pay close attention to the risks and concerns being flagged by local trade unions. See Fair Wear’s country-specific information here.
Collaborate with other brands, trade unions and local partners. Ideas have been floating around to set up a collective fund to support workers as they navigate the impact of COVID-19. Fair Wear will engage with other organisations to keep informed of such initiatives and liaise with its member brands on possibilities for mutual support, as well as support from governments and other (intra-governmental) institutions.
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