The health and safety of supply chain workers is a key area of focus for Abercrombie & Fitch Co. We strive to ensure the facilities throughout our supply chain are safe and protect the health of those working in them.
Through the A&F Co. social audit program, facilities throughout our supply chain are assessed to ensure health and safety requirements are adhered to by all parties. A&F Co. partners closely with our vendors to remedy findings found during the audit.
We work closely with our vendors to place a high priority on being prepared to deal with emergencies and making sure facilities have the appropriate equipment in place to keep the working conditions safe and healthy. For more information see Supplier Assessment.
Ongoing COVID-19 Response
A&F Co. remains dedicated to ensuring the health and safety of our workers across the globe. It is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented risks and challenges to our worker safety.
During the pandemic, A&F Co. remain in constant communication with our suppliers to ensure new health and safety measures are being implemented. A&F Co. has leveraged the Inspectorio Rise platform to implement our COVID-19 Assessment against local government standards (e.g. BGMEA guidelines for factory opening/running) and/or industry standards (e.g. AAFA/WRAP Guidance for the Continue Safe Operation of Factories During COVID-19) to countries that have been dramatically affected by COVID-19 such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. These assessments support the preparedness of our facility members to return to work efficiently and safely. In addition, the platform helps us identify areas of improvement, and apply solutions based on industry best practices and recommendations. Worker safety is a top priority, and we will continue to adapt our program as the state of the COVID-19 pandemic develops.
We also partner with Better Work to ensure our factories follow Better Work protocol to conduct Virtual Compliance Checks (VCCs) when Better Work staff cannot travel to factories during the COVID-19. The VCCs assess factories compliance on core labor standards and COVID-19 related health and safety measures.
A&F Co. is also committed to supporting meaningful industry-wide safety improvements, and to ensuring the welfare of our employees and our vendors around the world. Since 2013, we have undertaken extensive remediation efforts in Bangladesh in order to partner with our suppliers to assess and address key matters in their factories, including workplace safety.
From 2013 until 2018, A&F Co. was part of The Accord on Fire and Building Safety. Management immediately responded to the call for action by investing in remediation efforts, the factory achieved 100% progress rating in their fire safety improvements showing true commitment to the safety of their workers.
In continuing A&F Co.’s ongoing effort to make safety improvements in Bangladesh factories, our company joined Nirapon in 2019. Nirapon is an industry-led nonprofit organization that collaborates with global brands, retailers, manufacturers, and NGOs to create and sustain a culture of workplace safety in Bangladesh factories. There are more than 55 other members, who have enrolled more than 330 factories into the Nirapon Safety Management Program. Together we’re striving to create a positive impact for workers and factories as well as Nirapon Members.The three main areas of focus in Nirapon Safety Management Program include:
Safety Monitoring: Safety monitoring will continue to focus on structural, electrical, and fire safety. Factories are required to submit a safety management and maintenance report in 90 days interval to ensure an effective safety management system is in place. In addition, Safety Support Visits (SSV) will be conducted as a quality assurance measure of the 90-day report and serve as an independent assessment of safety management systems to help the factories continue to develop these systems in an effective and sustainable way. If there are any technical changes within a factory, including expansions or extensions, a Technical Support Visit will be completed to ensure changes adhere to relevant safety regulations and legislation.
Helpline: The helpline provides workers with a simple, accessible, and safe platform to report issues and connect workers and factories with local resources and emergency services before issues escalate into major concerns. Helpline officers validate and confirm reported issues. As appropriate, the officers provide necessary support to the workers, including referrals to local resources and/or authorities, as well as notifying factory management of the issue so corrective actions may be implemented. Helpline officers offer support (guidance, resources, etc.) to support the factory to prevent reoccurrence. The helpline officers will notify relevant authorities, if necessary, as soon as possible. A&F Co. will collaborate with the agents/vendors to determine corrective action steps, timeline and emergency procedures, as well as work with the factory to resolve the issues. Nirapon partners with Amader Kotha, an independent initiative that operates an anonymous helpline to provide workers a direct voice to report safety and other issues, and to allow managers to resolve issues. Nirapon uses helpline data as an early-warning system to identify emerging risks and inform our education content.
Training: In December 2020, Nirapon announced that BRAC USA/BRAC Bangladesh has been selected as Independent Service Provider to facilitate the Nirapon Training Curriculum with a focus on safety awareness and effective safety management for CAP closed factories. This collaboration brings a training of trainers approach, with the trainers in factories receiving direct support through an e-Learning platform, real-time online, and onsite support to enhance their learning experience and provide an up-to-date safety program. The curriculum includes Fire Safety Training for all workers, Safety Committee Training for safety committee members, Security Guard Fire Safety Training for security guards and Safety Management System Training for factories’ managers. By December 2021, over 70 trainers in A&F Co. factories completed the Fire Safety, Safety Committee and Security Guard Fire Safety training. These trainers then implemented the program in factories in 2022.
The Future We’re Working Toward Workplace safety management is a developing practice in Bangladesh and more factories are investing in people, creating systems for ongoing equipment maintenance and safety management solutions, and refining approaches as their businesses grow and change. By enabling factories to own safety, Nirapon is helping them prepare Bangladesh for a safer, more productive future.
Our vendor partners are committed to sustaining best practices, with ongoing guidance from leading brands, as well as third-party auditing firms, and are now in partnership with Nirapon. To learn more about Nirapon, visit www.nirapon.org.
Measuring Our Progress
In 2022, the most common findings for the categories with the highest percentages are:
- Emergency Preparedness
- Aisles and doorways clear of obstructions
- First Aid & Machine Safety
- Occupational health and safety requirements met, including health checks
- Machine guards properly installed
The chart below shows the percentage of factories with findings of non-compliance in each category.
To help address these issues, A&F Co. partners with Better Work to strengthen the factories’ monitoring and management system, knowledge of legal requirement and sharing industry best practices. Factories in the Better Work program implement 15 – 25 training days (depending on the country). Based on the specific needs, each factory will develop their training plan under Better Work enterprise advisors’ guidance. In addition, Better Work will conduct 3-5 advisory visits to factories to develop improvement plans and assist factories to correct the issues.