Heightened Due Diligence in wartime

On Wednesday 2nd March 2022, Fair Wear organised a meeting about Heightened Due Diligence in Ukraine during wartime. The purpose of the meeting was to exchange information between different stakeholders.

Member brands, Ukrainian suppliers, and two local representatives from the development sector in Ukraine were present. The discussion was led by Fair Wear’s Regional coordinator of Eastern Europe Biljana Solakovska-Mihajlovska and Brand Liaisons.

Overall, the situation is dire, with local stakeholders reporting regular bombing and the overall upheaval of ‘normal’ live. Factories are still operating depending on the level of conflict in the region where they are located.  The wish for brands to remain in business with their Ukraine partners was explicitly expressed, as economic activity in Ukraine strengthens their position and will ease the transition once the conflict is over. In addition, different forms of humanitarian support were discussed and proposed.

During the meeting, good examples were given. For instance, suppliers were able to give support to workers fleeing from Ukraine and offered them accommodation and work at one of their other factories nearby the Ukrainian border. Also, pre-payment of wages was given to workers. It was mentioned that workers who do not feel safe coming to work are paid a basic wage and that workers who are coming to work receive an extra bonus. Several brands have started initiatives to support workers, such as sending a truck with supplies to the Ukrainian border, starting a fund and making donations to suppliers. Finally, brands mentioned that they are in frequent contact with their suppliers about the rapidly changing situation and to learn how they can further provide support.

We are closely monitoring the situation and expect our brands sourcing from Ukraine to do the same. We are collaborating with ETI in collecting information and will facilitate the exchange of information as we go.

Main Takeaways from the meeting

  • Don’t leave your Ukrainian suppliers right now

The entire population is under a lot of stress and maintaining a stable business relationship can alleviate some economic concerns and offer continuity in times where everything feels up in the air.

  • Monitor the impact on workers

Continue assessing the impact on workers, for instance, worker turnover, job and wage loss, and means for access to remedy. The impact may extend to neighbouring countries such as Poland and may influence the situation in other suppliers. As this situation may require ad-hoc sourcing decisions when the need to move production elsewhere arises, member brands are required to conduct human rights due diligence when selecting alternative suppliers. In this light, regular updates and conversations with your brand liaison are recommended.

  • Stay in touch with your Ukrainian business associates and ask them about their needs

Some regions lack food, some electronics, some medicine. Ask your business partners how you can help them, they know best.

  • Look for humanitarian actions to join, or start one yourself

There are a lot of great initiatives already, including some started by our member brands. Follow their example or take the lead!

  • Promise job safety to workers that (temporarily) can’t come to work

Under martial law, Ukrainian men aged 18-60 have mandatory military service. When men get drafted for the war, it is important that their jobs and income are protected. This is also required by law:

“All places of work are required by law to keep records of employed civil defence conscripts. The employer of a woman conscripted for civil defence must keep her position for her until she returns – including if she’s injured or declared missing. She will be paid a salary, covered by the state” (Slipchenko 2021).

The protection of jobs and income is equally important for workers who cannot travel to work due to safety, sickness, or care responsibilities.

  • Provide advance payment to suppliers

Suppliers are making advance payments of wages to workers which may put more pressure on their own financial liquidity. By providing advance payments to your supplier in Ukraine this pressure may be relieved and the continuation of payment of wages is ensured.