Better Work (BW) is a global programme, which is a unique partnership between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). It unites the expertise of the ILO in labour standards with that of the IFC in private sector development. Launched in February 2007, the programme aims to improve both compliance with labour standards and competitiveness in global supply chains. BW involves the development of both global tools and country-level projects, with a focus on scalable and sustainable solutions that build cooperation between governments, employers' and workers' organisations and international buyers.
adidas Group engagement with Better Work
The adidas Group has been involved with BW since the launch of Better Factory Cambodia (BFC), the predecessor of BW in Asia. The project grew out of a trade agreement between the United States and Cambodia. Under the agreement the US promised Cambodia better access to US markets in exchange for improved working conditions in the garment sector. The ILO project was established in 2001 to help the sector make and maintain these improvements.
Since the programme began, all adidas Group garment factories in Cambodia have been monitored by BW on a regular basis. BW has its own training and capacity building programmes to support factory workers and management. The training topics range from ILO core labour standards and workers' rights to human resources management, supervisory skills and occupational safety and health, among others. The training programmes have been quite successful and one that has been particularly popular amongst our suppliers has been the supervisor skill training. A video of it can be seen on Youtube.
Outstanding issues in Cambodia
BFC has been highly successful in promoting Cambodia as a responsible sourcing country, but sourcing from Cambodia has not been without its challenges. In the last few years there has been a rapid growth in the number of trade unions within the apparel sector, with many smaller unions competing for attention from the same pool of workers and from management. With a weak national registration system many of the newly formed unions are not well organised and their operations are not always transparent. In 2010, there was a series of major strikes triggered by trade union demands for a higher minimum wage in Cambodia. BFC played an important role in keeping brands abreast of government views and reporting on progress with the tripartite negotiations. For more information please see our stakeholder engagement.
Slow take-up in Vietnam
In June 2009, BW launched its programme in Vietnam, transferring the experience and knowledge from BFC. The adidas Group has supported BW Vietnam, but has faced some challenges in securing the participation of our suppliers. Challenges are that:
- BW Vietnam is a voluntary programme, unlike the government mandated arrangement in Cambodia
- The scope of BW Vietnam is confined to apparel, whereas in Cambodia our suppliers include large footwear and accessory operations
- Perhaps most importantly, the monitoring conducted by the adidas Group's own internal compliance team is free of charge, whereas there is a fee attached to monitoring under BW.
As a result by the end of 2010, only four adidas Group suppliers had joined the BW programme. We are hopeful that more suppliers will sign up for BW-run skills training planned for 2011.
In November 2010, the adidas Group in partnership with H&M and other multinational companies formed a brands' working group to improve buyer engagement and support for the roll-out of BW in Vietnam and prospective BW countries in the region, such as Bangladesh and Indonesia. The working group activities will feed into a BW industry task force that has been established by the ILO and IFC.
We are considering signing up factories in Haiti, Nicaragua and Jordan to be exclusively covered under the BW programme.
Find out more about Better Work
Ms. Vu Thi Hoang Yen, Production Manager at Vinh Hung Co. Ltd., Vietnam:
"I have to say this is the best training I have ever attended. It is useful and applicable for my managerial level and middle management as line supervisor. The knowledge gained from this training is useful for me and my other colleagues in the company."
Mr. Kim Young Woo, Hansoll Vina, Vietnam/Cambodia:
"Hansoll factories in Cambodia had already joined the Better Factories Cambodia programme several years ago according to the Cambodian government's policy; hence we have had an interest in the Better Work Vietnam (BWV) programme as well. The BWV programme started due to the success of BFC, and we joined with the persuasion of adidas and other brands. The benefit is that for Hansoll factories that joined BWV, brands are now accepting ILO audit reports as a substitute for their own audits."