Corporate Responsibility

Working Conditions

Fair working conditions aren't just the right thing to do, it also makes good business sense. Our products are made by suppliers from across the world who have the expertise we need.

To get the latest catwalk trends to our customers as quickly as possible, we work with suppliers based closer to our stores, such as in the UK and Turkey. When speed is not so crucial, and to offer customers a fuller and wider range of choice, we source from Asia, in particular Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India and China.

Responsible sourcing - a video with Giles Bolton

Where do we buy our products?

Who are we?

We source our clothing from 22 countries, the vast majority from Bangladesh, China, India, Sri Lanka and Turkey. We have a team of Production Technologists and Ethical Trading employees working in locations worldwide. Their role is to spend time in factories to building relationships and to ensure decent working standards. On average in Bangladesh, a factory will be visited once every other week. In China or India, where our factories are much more spaced out, a visit will happen once a month to once a year. Factories in Sri Lanka and Turkey are visited once a year as compliance is much higher.

Meet Ban

What do you enjoy most about working for F&F?
In the last four years I have been in the F&F business, it has been great witnessing how the brand has developed to become more and more committed to social responsibility, and to endeavor to ensure that workers making the F&F clothes are well treated and can benefit from the business.

What is your role and how do you ensure our Ethical Trading Standards are monitored/upheld?
At F&F, we have strong ethical values and are very committed to ethical trading. We expect all our suppliers to share our values. Apart from engaging external audit companies to conduct independent monitoring, we also have our own team of ethical trading experts in our key sourcing countries (e.g. Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey, etc.) to assess working conditions in factories to ensure they meet our ethical trading standards.

Whenever my team and I find non-compliances, we require factories to take necessary corrective actions. In order to support factories to improve, we organise regular ethical training workshops to communicate to suppliers our ethical trading requirements and share industry best practices, and engage specialist consultancies to help enhance their internal capability to implement the standards.

How does F&F manage working hours and wages across our supply base?
When we find factories working more hours than the legal or ETI standards, we require them to take sustainable corrective actions including improving production management, upgrading workers’ skills, providing extra pay and welfare incentives for workers to boost productivity, etc.

A number of factories have benefited from these improvement programs and have achieved good results in increased productivity and reduced working hours.

How do we work with our suppliers to achieve the best results and what training do you offer suppliers and their workforce?
We organise regular supplier workshops in different countries and also support them to join in different capacity building initiatives regarding management systems, productivity management, fire safety, and general health and safety. We also engage NGOs to conduct health and safety training for supervisors and workers in countries like Bangladesh and China.

What percentage of workers are women and what specific support is provided to them?
The vast majority of workers in the garment industry are women workers. In Bangladesh, we worked with an NGO in 2014 to provide health and women’s rights training for over 1000 women workers and develop them to become peer educators to spread the knowledge to their fellow women workers. The training programme continues in 2015 and we expect to benefit another 2000 women workers.

We also sponsor operations of childcare centres in worker's communities in Bangladesh so that while women workers go to work, their children can be cared for by experts of early childhood learning and literacy programmes, and children are also supported to enroll in schools later to receive formal education.

What is your proudest achievement during your time at F&F?
There was a case in China where some workers have sought our help to resolve a case of unfair dismissal. One of the workers was a pregnant woman worker and she was very distressed and worried about her future when she contacted us for help. We conducted an investigation and confirmed that the factory was indeed wrong to dismiss the workers.

Workers did not want to continue to work in the factory and demanded compensation. We ensured that the factory provided proper and legal compensation to the workers. Later we received a call from the woman worker who has given birth to a baby girl and she asked to name her baby after one of my teammates who had led the resolution of the case.

There are also a few times when I visited factories participating in the women workers training programme in Bangladesh, some workers came up to me and told me in their local language (and translated to me through my local teammates) how glad they are that they have been able to become recognised as ambassadors to spread knowledge to their other workers and how it helped them get better exposures and higher self-value.

To hear from workers how our ethical trading program has really helped them, and to get recognition from workers like this is so rewarding . It encourages us to continue to work hard to improve the working conditions in our supply base.

While there could be some factories we work with that they have some unethical practices which unfortunately we do not know, however, when we find out, we do our best to correct them, and ensure that workers making F&F are benefited by our business.

Meet Salim

What is your role in the F&F business?
I have been working with F&F for more than 5 years and I look after Garment & Production team for Bangladesh & Pakistan. I am based in our Dhaka, Bangladesh, office. My team and I regularly visit our factories, and we manage the end to end process for Technical to make sure we offer good quality products to our customer. We monitor third party Technical audits, product samples to ensure they are fit for purpose, pre-production meetings to support factories to become more efficient, and monitor third party product inspections to make sure the products are right for our customer before they leave the factory.

How do you play a part in ensuring our products are ethically sourced?
All of our factories are approved ethically and technically by recognised third party companies. We have in-country ethical and technical teams who travel to factories almost every week to ensure the factory standard is consistent in any circumstance.

F&F products are being produced only in our approved sites which have been monitoring by hub Technical teams. In Bangladesh, we have Tesco certified representatives in all of our approved factories who ensure product quality and factory standards.

How often do you visit factories and how do you generally spend your time when you are in them?
Between me and my team in Bangladesh, we travel to our core factories at least once in a week to ensure factories are maintaining a high standard. We regularly conduct pre-production meetings in the factory premise to identify and solve any potential production issues. We also make sure raw materials come from approved sources and carry out a product audit to ensure the correct quality products are supplied to customers.

What do you like about your job?
I am proud of the suppliers we work with in F&F and to work in a company that spends so much time working with the factory, in their premesis.

Working conditions initiatives

Project BBW

F&F has been supporting the successful Benefits for Business and Workers (BBW) training programme, run by Impact Limited (http://www.impacttlimited.com/) since its start in 2010. BBW builds the capability of garment factories to provide higher quality, better paid and safer jobs to workers whilst also improving factory efficiency and productivity management. In 2011 to 2013, F&F supported the rolling out of the programme to 45 factories in Bangladesh and 28 in India. F&F, along with the other companies committed to this initiative, is delighted that thanks to industry and government support, the BBW programme is currently being rolled out to a further 200 factories in Bangladesh. More workers will enjoy higher wages, skills development, access to promotion, and gain greater social and economic benefits as a result of the programme.

Project Sumangali

Sumangali’ is a practice where young female workers from rural villages work for two or three years in spinning mills in India in return for a dowry (usual a cash payment that the woman’s family would need to give to her husband’s family when they are to marry). This local practice is a form of slavery.

We have local ethical trading experts on the ground and since 2010 we have worked closely with the Ethical Trading Initiative and other brands in Southern India on an industry-wide programme to end the practice, we were the first retailer to commit to supporting this. Find out more here: http://www.ethicaltrade.org/news-and-events/news/Tamil-Nadu-Update.

We have conducted investigations and have found no evidence of Sumangali practices in our supply base, and we continue to monitor conditions for workers at our suppliers closely. We now have two Tesco ethical specialists based in India who are working with a wide range of groups and suppliers at all stages of clothing manufacture, to tackle the root causes of sumangali and similar practices which are often long-held traditions in the local society and culture.

Factory Profile

The AMA Group based in Peter lee, East Durham, are just one of the suppliers we work with right here in the UK. We’re delighted to work with AMA as they have brought clothes-making back to the firm’s North East heartland. AMA supply thousands of ladies tops under our F&F brand and we are very proud that this will support hundreds of new jobs locally.

At its peak in the North East, the textile industry used to employ thousands of people. AMA has links to the region’s renowned textile trade and that was one of the reasons why we have partnered with them. Not only does this mean we can help bring back jobs to the area, but our customers can now buy a wider range of good-quality, UK-made clothing.

Accord

We are also members of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety, a legally binding agreement between two global trade unions and over 180 international brands and retailers designed to improve structural, fire and electrical safety across the Bangladesh garment industry.

It is independently chaired by the International Labour Organisation. In Bangladesh we have conducted structural surveys at every factory that we source from and publish a list of factories that we use.

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