Hull business Arco calls on businesses to help put an end to exploitation
COMMIT TO CODE: Danny Hobson says companies must work with suppliers to drive up standards
By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 10 Aug 2017
In a world where fast fashion is as disposable as the packages in which the garments are shipped in, few people think about where their clothes came from or how they were made.
Unfortunately, this shift has seen a dramatic spike in slave labour and deteriorating factory conditions as suppliers battle to manufacture goods as cheaply as possible.
Yesterday, a letter in The Times from the chief executive of New Look underlined how conditions in UK factories can be just as bad as those in places such as Indonesia and China.
Now, a Hull-based family firm is urging businesses to help provide a cure rather than add to the problem.
Danny Hobson, ethical and quality improvement manager at Arco, said: “Businesses not only have a responsibility to ensure they are trading ethically, but establish support mechanisms for vulnerable workers whose basic human rights and livelihood may be compromised, such as children and refugees.
"It’s important companies don’t turn a blind eye; simply withdrawing their business can have extremely detrimental consequences.
“Instead, organisations should work with the factory to identify the problem and help them to put in place strategies to achieve full compliance.”
The Hull firm has created a process to ensure the ethical compliance of all suppliers manufacturing products which carry an Arco brand.
This is in line with the ETI Base Code – an internationally recognised code of labour practice.
Before any products are made, suppliers must commit to Arco’s Ethical Compliance Procedure, which ensures they have the capability and systems to meet ETI requirements.
Factory assessments are carried out by one of the world’s leading social compliance audit companies or by Arco employees who have been trained by the ETI.
Discussing the surprising prevalence of modern day slavery in the supply chain, Mr Hobson used the example of Tamil Nadu - the powerhouse of India's textile industry.
Housing 58 per cent of India’s textile mills, Tamil Nadu employs more than a million workers in the garment sector, most of whom are subject to severe labour exploitation and dangerous conditions.
He said: “The workforce is predominantly female, many are regular victims of bonded labour. The women millworkers experience many forms of ill treatment, including excessive working hours, poor living conditions and illness caused by exposure to cotton dust.
"Withholding wages and paying below minimum wage is common practice.
“Unfortunately it is still too easy for companies and consumers to turn a blind eye. Many consumers are unaware of the conditions under which the goods they buy have been produced and even when businesses have good intentions, auditing a supply chain with multiple suppliers can be so complex.”
Mr Hobson said companies looking to put an end to modern day slavery should help suppliers to raise their standards.
He said: “As well as improving working conditions for staff, this can benefit the supplier by helping them to win more contracts and compete more effectively for international business.
“Examples of how Arco has helped its suppliers improve employee wellbeing include helping them to provide better dining and hygiene facilities and instigating training programmes to improve employee morale and engagement.
“Any supplier failing seriously or consistently to adhere to the standards detailed in the ‘Ethical Guide for Vendors’ document will be removed from the approved supplier list.”