How can a brand protect its image, and at the same time place production in countries like Bangladesh, India, or China?
Many people would say “it’s impossible to lower risks to zero” and they would be right. But how to reduce risks to a level close to zero?
I found a good set of recommendations in Garment factory collapse could leave reputations in tatters; seven steps to protect brand names (h/t to Collective Responsibility). Unfortunately, it does cost money.
Here are seven steps that brand names and large retailers should try to follow:
1. If the workplace health, safety and environmental regulatory framework of your sourcing market is less stringent than in your home country, find suppliers that are prepared to accept your home country’s requirements as their standard;
2. That means you need to undertake thorough due diligence to identify and qualify your partners in your supply chain;
3. Be prepared to pay a premium to ensure your partners can meet the standards demanded by you and your customers back home (it may make producing overseas more expensive but your reputation will remain intact);
4. Publicise what you are doing to improve working and environmental conditions in the market you are sourcing from;
5. Put in place a strong corporate social responsibility program in the country you are sourcing product from to demonstrate your commitment to the local market and to create that shield for your brand in case something goes wrong (remember that Murphy’s Law is always in play);
6. Have a crisis plan, systems and processes in place to deal with a crisis in case it happens (that thing about Murphy’s Law again);
7. Constantly test and improve your crisis plan.
I think “Put in place a strong corporate social responsibility program” is a little vague. It can be inadequate, as I wrote recently:
After a social compliance audit, a manufacturer gets a rating – typically, all the criteria of the SA 8000 standard and local laws are weighted about the same. But I think it should be different:
- Some criteria should be critical, and should be a cause for failure of the audit — for example, a worker cutting fabric without protective gloves, instances of child labor, insufficient safety exits in case of a fire…
- Some others should be considered as “nice to have” — for example, respect of local regulations regarding working hours (what is the problem, really, if the workers can easily quit a factory and join another one?)
But I don’t see any to add to the list… how about you?