How we work

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Our goal is for garment workers’ rights to be realized and for factories who uphold labour laws and standards to be profitable and productive. Our strategy to achieve this involves working with major industry stakeholders at global and country levels in addition to intensive work on the ground with factories.

1) At a factory level, we make lasting changes in factories, and in the global supply chain they feed into by probing the root causes of why various labour laws and standards aren’t met and addressing entrenched workplace attitudes and practices. Areas we cover include child labour, discrimination, forced labour, freedom of association, collective bargaining and national labour law regulations on compensation, contract and workplace relations, occupational safety and health, working hours and more. Our activities consist of building knowledge, skills and systems within factories with a particular focus on helping employers and workers come together to resolve challenges themselves. Read More

For decades, factories have been audited for labour conditions but on its own it rarely results in meaningful improvements. At Better Work, we focus on partnering with factories and building the ability of factory managers and workers to drive change. Our process within individual factories consists of the following:

  • Advisory: Our work in factories begins with an initial period of 100 days for a process that we call advisory services. This consists of specially-tailored coaching from our experienced staff.
  • Worker-management communications: At the start of advisory services, we help to create Performance Improvement Consultative Committees (PICCs) in factories—these are groups made up of an equal number of both management and union/worker representatives who meet regularly to discuss and resolve workplace issues.
  • Self-Diagnosis: Factories are then guided by their Better Work advisor to self-diagnose where they are not meeting labour laws and standards and how systems could support lasting improvements over time. The purpose of this is to enable and support factories to take initiative in the process of identifying and addressing needed improvements. Not every factory needs the same level of engagement. Newer factories receive more support from our Advisors.
  • Training & Peer Learning: Our innovative training courses for factory representatives support and reinforce the advisory work through giving detailed instruction on how to tackle problem areas and improve workplace relations. Examples of this include trainings on managing health and safety in the workplace, training supervisors on how to manage workers and training on setting up proper human resources systems. We believe that factories have a great deal to learn from one another. As such, factories also participate in issue specific seminars in group settings resolving challenges. Topics include fire safety, chemicals handling, grievance handling and more.
  • Assessment: After a few months in the factories setting up the PICC and helping them self-diagnose problems, we then provide a comprehensive assessment determining their overall progress on meeting international labour standards and national labour laws. We also examine the systems that the factory has to solve problems related to human resources and safety in the workplace. Assessment findings are coupled with the factory’s own diagnosis of problems identified.
  • Customized Approach: Following this assessment, we help them shape a strategy for improvement relevant to their needs. Our advisory process continues enabling the PICCs and factory structures to address problems holistically so that when changes are made they can really impact working lives and businesses rather than acting as short term fixes. Social dialogue plays a key role in impactful change. Reflecting this, the advisor focuses on facilitating PICC meetings. Our involvement gradually decreases as factories become more effective at problem solving.
  • Reporting: After working with us for a few months, factories are responsible for reporting progress and continued challenges to the buyers for whom they make products. Later, Better Work releases a progress report covering detailed findings, developments and improvements in the factory.
  • Differentiating Between Factories: After this 16 month period, Better Work can determine the level of learning needed by individual factories going forward. Very high performing factories who have demonstrated a clear commitment to maintaining standards are offered advanced services and additional benefits.
  • Transparent Reporting: Transparency is at the heart of our work. Our programmes in Haiti and Cambodia have seen increased improvements from naming garment factories alongside their labour conditions. Soon, all Better Work countries will introduce public reporting in order to give visibility to factory progress and accelerate improvements.

For more details, see How We Work in Factories

2) On the international stage, we harness our position as part of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) to convene the key partners with roles and responsibilities to play in transforming the industry. This involves influencing the laws and policies of government, employers, international buyers and trade unions that extend to entire industries and reach workers and factories beyond our programme’s scope. This work consists of proving that that business benefits and good working conditions can go hand in hand.

Our work leverages our influence beyond the factories to entire industries. We act in a convenor role bringing the key stakeholders of government, employers and trade unions together in order to resolve broad-scale industry challenges.

We understand the importance of bridging the public systems with the private sector to maximize impact. Harnessing the power that global clothing brands have to make positive changes in their supply chains, we also work with an increasing number of international buyers ensuring they are committed to supporting their supplier factories in continuous improvement.

Our extensive research portfolio captures the unique knowledge and findings arising from our core programmes to influence the labour policies and practices of international buyers, governments and other institutions. An important component of this work involves gathering data and research to make a compelling business case for enterprises to invest in improving working conditions. We also produce regular public Synthesis and Thematic Reports, which present findings from our participating factories in each country and give an overview of garment sector progress and challenges.