Following our recent paper looking at the steps being taken towards delivering a living wage across global supply chains, Aleix Gonzalez Busquets of C&A and Andy York of N Brown Group explain why they, along with several other garment brands, have agreed a set of living wage principles in the wake of the recent Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh. Rachel Wilshaw provides the introduction.
The Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, to which over 180 garment brands have signed up, has shown it is possible to bring about change in an industry’s ways of working. The Accord’s primary focus is on worker safety, following the collapse of Rana Plaza, but it is also catalysing about worker participation and business practices. Two companies active in the Accord – C&A and N Brown Group – are among a group of more than 10 garment brands who have signed up to a set of living wage principles and committed to working together. Aleix Gonzalez Busquets and Andy York comment on their new approach, responding to Oxfam’s recent briefing for companies, Steps towards a living wage in global supply chains.
Aleix Gonzalez Busquets, C&A
For C&A the rationale behind taking action is quite clear: the company wishes to be a catalyst to ensure workers can have access to a better life. In order to do so, the company believes that workers have to be empowered and enabled to make decisions themselves. C&A recognises it cannot reach this objective alone, thus it is committed to working hand-in-hand and collaboratively with peers and stakeholders.
Reaching a fair living wage is one of the outcomes we want to bring about throughout the supply chain by creating a mature industrial relations process that allows workers and factory managers to reach collective bargaining agreements. Helping to improve the workers-management dialogue; providing expertise to increase efficiency and productivity of the suppliers and factories; fine tuning our internal purchasing practices and involving governments in the discussion. This is the roadmap that some brands, including C&A, and stakeholders have decided to implement in order to tackle some of the most important challenges that global supply chains face.
The answer is simple from the N Brown Group perspective and the answer is collaboration. Getting to a solution in a complex supply chain isn’t necessarily that straightforward as retailers often share factories and practices vary significantly from country to country. That said this should not deter us from having this shared ambition.
For us it makes both moral and commercial sense. We are looking at it from a different pair of eyes. We see this as a key driver to empowering workers right across the supply chain. This collaborative approach is also why we were one of the signatories on the recent letter to the Cambodian government urging an increase in the minimum wage and, of course, the Bangladesh Accord agreement.
This responsibility shouldn’t just sit with retailers and this is why we agreed to sign the Cambodian letter. Governments also have a responsibility. By working with everyone involved in the garment industry from manufacturers through to NGOs, sharing best practice, collectively working together we are positive that we can influence effective change.