In collaboration with our partners, we are proud of our accomplishments in advancing our environmental, product and social-related initiatives.
Human Trafficking Awareness Training
A&F Co. has partnered with the Pacific Link Foundation’s Factory Awareness to Counter Trafficking (FACT) program to provide in person and online training to factory managers and workers in Vietnam. The program is intended to increase awareness in identifying signs of forced labor and advance workers’ knowledge of safe recruitment practices. In response to recent trainings, the following feedback was provided:
"The course is beneficial, helping me learn about things I rarely know. I can apply the knowledge from this training to my daily life and share it with my family and friends. Thank you very much for the program." - Hansoll Vina, Employee
"The knowledge delivered in training should be widely disseminated to everyone, especially workers, so they can be better informed and protect themselves." - Kim Binh. Manager
A long-term second-tier factory was audited in 2015, and it was found that the factory had compensation and benefits issues, including not paying legal minimum wage or overtime wage. These issues were brought to the factory’s attention, and after discussion and guidance from A&F Co., the factory immediately began working on sustainable improvements. Within a few months, the factory was pleased to share their progress with A&F Co., as they implemented a new payroll system to be compliant with the law. The factory went a step further in creating a new position of Chief Social Compliance Officer, who is responsible for overseeing all social compliance operations in the factory. This is a great example of how transparency and trust between a brand and smaller factories can proactively implement management systems for long-term factory benefit.
In examining common findings that need to be addressed among countries, one finding that stood out in the U.S. was related to I-9 forms. This is especially true of factories new to the A&F Co. audit process and may require more guidance. During a social audit at one factory, the auditor found that some I-9 forms were completed incorrectly, missing information or used old forms. This was raised as a finding by the auditors to A&F Co. so that remediation steps could be taken. The auditor also provided guidance to factory management during the audit day and provided reference links so management could begin immediate improvement. By acting as A&F Co.’s eyes and ears, and going a step further in supporting the factory, our auditor demonstrated why our partnerships with our monitoring firms are integral parts of our program.
Health and Safety: Emergency Preparedness
A first-tier Bangladesh factory producing for A&F Co. went through extensive remediation efforts as part of The Accord on Fire and Building Safety and Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. The initial fire safety inspection report found over 30 findings that required improvements. Some examples included fire-resistive doors, automated sprinklers, fire alarm systems, and illuminated exits signs. Management immediately responded to the call for action, specifically addressing all reported findings by forming a fire safety committee that completed a year-long multi-course curriculum consisting of safety committee fundamentals and management, physically identifying workplace hazards, assigning leadership to take responsibility for the corrective action, addressing safety complaints, communicating and problem solving within the committees to create best practices and building out safety monitoring systems. By investing in remediation efforts, the factory achieved 100% progress rating in their fire safety improvements in just over a year and a half, showing true commitment to the safety of their workers.
Country-specific trends found transparency in record keeping was a big issue in our China factory audits. The 2015 baseline found 73 Chinese factories had transparency issues during audits. Transparency in audits allows auditors to properly review wages, benefits, insurance and working hours to ensure the factory is following legal and A&F Co. Vendor Code of Conduct requirements.
To improve transparency, the sustainability team communicated A&F Co.'s transparency expectations during to all vendors during audits, as well as a commitment to partnership. This message is still reiterated when our monitoring firms schedule audits and at audits' opening meeting. Our Hong Kong team also began further factory outreach, including visiting factories with transparency issues prior to their next audit. This proved to be A&F Co.&’s most effective
step in improving transparency.
Factory outreach uncovered several reasons that lead to transparency issues in China factories:
In general, there are four phases to drive transparency:
|Meet with factory management to explain A&F Co. policy. Factory commits resources for improvement.|
Root Cause Analysis
|Factory visits to identify the root cause of transparency issues.|
A&F Co. Recommendation & Monitoring
|Factory visit to provide guidance on record keeping, working hours, and wages.|
Provide recommendations to drive transparency.
Monitor improvements via calls, emails, and/or visits.
Third Party Audit
|A&F Co. shadows audit to facilitate transparency and verify improvement.|
Audit may result in: More findings in Working Hours and Wages & Benefits; Lower grades than previous audit.
Due to this increased engagement with factories, A&F Co. has effectively supported our Chinese factories in improving transparency. While we are not yet at 100% transparency, we are proud to have achieved an 82% improvement rate since 2016, with eight factories in China identified with transparency issues.
Crystal International Group
Our long-time supplier, Crystal International Group Limited, has demonstrated its dedication to workers and safe and healthy workplace environments throughout the years. The supplier’s Occupational Health & Safety Committee works on improved workplace safety, ergonomic design to improve worker comfort and improved ventilation. Employee Care Programs provide workers with training sessions and coordinate extracurricular activities, such as trips for outstanding employees and special interest classes. In early 2020, Crystal launched a mobile application in one of its Sri-Lanka factories to provide over 1,000 workers and their families with 24-hour access to medical consultations. The fee-based service is intended to help enhance medical access and health benefits.