Our Ethical Policy
What does ethical trade mean to us?
For Boden, it's about our social responsibility towards the people in the supply chain and the communities they operate in. To us ethical trading is much more than a code of conduct and a monitoring scheme. Along with many other retailers we have a code of conduct by which we operate - read it here. We use it as a tool to help communicate to our suppliers that we have adopted the Ethical Trading Initiative base code, which is based on the International Labour Organisation conventions on labour standards. This has been the basis of our programme and provides focus on issues, although many elements of the code are interlinked. We have been members of the ETI for over four years and it has, and continues to be, a great platform for learning and sharing with other brands, and working collectively on issues.
The new supply chain programmes at the ETI will help co-ordinate many existing initiatives amongst the members, so that we can have a bigger impact in the supply chains we are all working in.
Like many ethical trade programmes we have a monitoring programme based on ethical audits. Audits are just a measure in time and provide a starting point. They include a review of factory documents, such as personnel records, time records, wages records, a full factory tour and review of facilities, opening and closing meetings with management and worker representatives and, most importantly, group and individual interviews with the workers. They also include a review of factory conditions including what health and safety procedures are in place.
Where needed, we work with suppliers to help them develop individual improvement plans that will provide long-term effective improvements.
It is important to us that we build relationships with our suppliers to support the process of continual improvement and visiting the factories is absolutely key to that. Our Ethical Trade Manager, buying teams and representatives visit factories to develop relationships with the management, to understand the factory set up and work directly on technical and quality developments.
How do we engage with our suppliers and factories?
We have regular meetings with our UK agents and suppliers, hold teleconferences with our overseas suppliers, have in-country meetings and factory visits, and we hold in-country workshops and conferences. We use around 160 factories globally through 50 suppliers.
In November 2011 we held a supplier and factory workshop in Haryana, India. We gave them an update on our business and our local partners gave an update to suppliers on current local ethical issues and discussed improvements in working conditions. Topics of discussion during the day included workforce investment and developing strong HR systems, managing the informal sector (homeworking), productivity that benefits all and understanding how ethical improvements in working conditions can drive a business forward. It was a unique opportunity for our suppliers to network and talk openly about issue they are all facing.
At the workshop our team were joined by local experts who have done extensive "on the ground" work including Impactt country manager Sridhar Rajagopal, Rajesh Bheda from RBC (Rajesh Bheda Consulting) and Vinita Singh, an independent local consultant who regularly works with UK based organisation ETI.
How do we source our factories?
We have a core established supply base that we work with. Where possible we have established long term relationships with the factories - some sites we have worked with for over eight years. The majority of our factories are in China and India.
Our suppliers and agents help us source factories that will help us deliver the best quality product and decent working conditions.
Where does Boden manufacture its products?
When we develop our ranges for the season, where possible, we work with our existing supply base. When this isn't possible we look worldwide to find suppliers and factories with the skills that can provide the level of quality and deliver on time at a competitive price, are considerate of the environmental impact and treat workers fairly.
We work in partnership with our suppliers working with factories in China, India, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Romania, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Thailand, Vietnam, Portugal, Taiwan, Tunisia, Morocco, Spain, Italy and the UK.
Why don't you make more of your products in the UK?
We currently have two factories in the UK making accessories for us. Manufacturing in the UK isn't always as simple as it sounds. There can be similar challenges in working conditions in the UK as those faced overseas.
We are always looking to work with sources closer to home and continuously looking out for innovative supplying sources in the UK who can deliver product that meets both our quality and ethical requirements.
Are there children working in the factories that make your clothes?
We have a very clear policy on Child Labour. We have not had the need to implement the policy as yet.
Child Labour is understandably a very emotive subject. We believe the right to a childhood is fundamental and a key part of childhood is the access to education. When children are working and are not able to attend school they are losing the opportunity for a better future.
The issue of child labour is not solely concerned with child workers in the supply chain but also ensuring that young workers over the age of 15 (16 in China) but below 18 are also protected in the workplace.
Checks on child labour are part of our screening process of factories, and when suppliers and factories begin working with us we supply them with our child remediation policy that we have adopted. This document has been drafted by Impactt and is a widely recognised policy that follows ILO guidelines that ensure sensitive and responsible remediation. Our primary concern is always to protect the interests of the child.
What about wages, are factory workers paid a fair wage?
We require that factories pay their workers a legal minimum wage or better, that they provide decent working conditions, and that workers have the right to join a union. Where workers are working overtime, we require that they are compensated accordingly with the legal premiums.
We are committed to the principle of a living wage. A "Living Wage" is an income that covers basic living costs with some discretionary income. There is a lot of debate within the development community, NGOs and campaigners on what this should cover and how many people in a family this should provide for, so determining an "agreed" figure for each country is still an on-going international debate.
There are many things that impact wages, and factories are finding ways to help employees through providing extra benefits to help supplement their income. These are just some examples: subsidised and/or free meals; free transportation to and from the factory; on-site library with access to daily newspapers; subsidised onsite shop. Many factories also incentivise workers through attendance, production and longevity (for long term employees) bonuses.
Easy access to legitimate bank accounts and understanding personal finances (called financial inclusion) can also have a major impact on income in some regions. We have been working with an organisation called Geosansar - a social enterprise in Hydrebad, India. They have been working with one of our suppliers to help deliver financial education to all the factory employees and provide access to bank accounts and banking. After the success of this we are engaging with our other Indian sites to see if this can be introduced at their facilities. Learn more about this here.
I am concerned about long working hours overseas
Working hours are a challenging issue within any supply chain. All over the world there are labour laws pertaining to working hours to prevent excessive overtime to protect employees.
The ETI code is also clear that workers shall not on a regular basis be required to work in excess of 48 hours per week and shall be provided with at least one day off for every seven day period on average. Overtime shall be voluntary, shall not exceed 12 hours per week, shall not be demanded on a regular basis and shall always be compensated at a premium rate.
Where we find issues with hours in the factories making our products, we work with the supplier on an action plan to bring the hours down in a sustainable way. This can sometimes be challenging if we are just one of many buyers from the factory and so, where possible, we work with other brands and retailers to support the factory in making the improvements.
Excessive hours can have many root causes: issues with production planning, no contingency planning in place, shorter lead times, raw material delays, absenteeism, shortage in available skilled labour. These are just some challenges that factories face that can lead to an increasing need to work longer hours.
As part of our program we are looking at how our purchasing practices may impact on working conditions and particularly how they may impact the factories' ability to manage hours.
In India, we have already been working with a key supplier in the Tirapur region that had been facing challenges managing their working hours in their factories. We wanted to help them find a longer term resolution to the issues they were facing. We worked on the ground with our partner Impactt on a programme to help deliver benefits for the employees and the factory.
Are you involved in any improvement projects with your suppliers?
We are currently working on an area of our website where you will be able to get a fuller picture of our programme but we would like to give you some examples. Please check back regularly for updates.
In China, we have an on-going project with our partner, the TAOS network. The team at TAOS have a lot of experience in developing improvement programmes for factories and are working together with one of our key suppliers in introducing a Sustainable Social Compliance Programme at their factory.
This programme is focused on all aspects of working conditions including the set-up of a worker participation committee to provide a forum for employees to air their suggestions, concerns and issues directly to the management. Another key area has been management of working hours, which is a very common issue identified in assessments in China, particularly in the Southern regions where recruiting new workers is increasingly challenging.
A core element of the project is ensuring everyone on the management team of the factory is committed and involved with the project and that workers are involved and considered throughout the process, as the essential objective is to provide sustainable improvements that positively impact all levels of the factory.
Our work with the ETI will help co-ordinate many existing initiatives amongst the members so that we can have a bigger impact in the supply chains we are all working in. Current programmes we are involved in include South China footwear group, South India garment group, and North India jewellery group.