Brand Performance Checks
Every year, we conduct a Brand Performance Check at all FWF member companies. It’s the most important element of FWF’s unique ‘shared responsibility’ approach. Traditional efforts to improve conditions focus primarily on the factory. We believe, however, that the management/purchasing decisions of clothing brands have an enormous influence on factory conditions. In other words, factory conditions cannot be separated from brands’ business practices.
The Brand Performance Check is a tool we use to figure out how our members’ business practices impact labour conditions. Every year, we review brands’ efforts by measuring how well they have assessed, identified and resolved issues with their suppliers, and we openly share this with the public. Brand Performance Checks help brands determine what they are doing well and where they can improve to create positive changes for the workers.
Here you can find a great example of how an FWF brand changed its business practices to improve factory-floor conditions.
Audits in garment factories
To make real improvements to working conditions, we need to understand what’s happening on the factory floor. With an FWF audit, the factory does not pass or fail. FWF never certifies factories or brands. At this stage it’s not realistic to claim that any factory or brand is 100% fair. Instead, the brand and the factory work together to try to tackle the problems that an audit finds.
A worker interviewer, a documents inspector and a health and safety specialist are the key to discovering underlying problems. Worker interviews are an important part of FWF audits. Our local teams conduct them inside and outside the factory. That way, the workers can talk freely. For our audits, we always work with local specialists.
After the audit, the team discusses steps for improvement with the brand and factory management. The brands and factory management then create a concrete action plan with a clear timeframe for execution.
FWF offers complaints helplines in major garment-producing countries. When garment workers feel that their rights are being violated, or when others see this happen, they can lodge a complaint. FWF immediately launches an investigation and requires the brand to work with the supplier to remediate the problem, together with factory management and any worker representatives. Members are encouraged to also identify and address the root causes of the problem.
All complaints can be found here. In this way, we provide an extraordinary level of transparency. It’s very unusual for garment brands to be open about complaints, if they work with a complaints system at all. But at FWF we feel transparency is crucial if we want the garment industry to improve.
The FWF Workplace Education Programme (WEP) goes beyond auditing to encourage the development of workplaces where issues can be resolved through open communication and functioning complaints systems. Raising awareness about workers’ rights is an essential first step in creating change. When workers and management understand what it means to have safe and healthy working conditions, they are in a better position to vocalise concerns and make improvements. The WEP offers training on the FWF labour standards, teaching workers and management how to protect workers’ rights and enable open dialogue and remediation. Fair Wear Foundation provides both general and country-specific modules.