18 May 2017
Geneva – Better Work will collaborate with Fair Wear Foundation, an international multi-stakeholder initiative aimed at improving working conditions in the garment industry, to streamline factory-level operations and offer business partners new benefits. A new agreement was signed at the Human Rights and Garment Conference in the Hague, the Netherlands, on the 18th of May, while the collaboration officially began with an 18 month pilot on 1 June 2017.
Better Work—a flagship programme of the UN’s International Labour Organization jointly run by the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group—will join forces with Fair Wear Foundation with three main goals in mind: coordinating factory assessments, streamlining factory capacity building and improvement processes, and unlocking learning and cooperation opportunities for brand partners.
The new agreement builds on both organizations’ commitment to engaging diverse groups—including unions, employers, brands and governments—as well as a shared focus on encouraging effective worker-management dialogue and a partial overlap in terms of geographic reach.
A trial project in selected apparel factories in Vietnam and Bangladesh will involve the two organizations coordinating their activities to increase their impact on improving working conditions and boosting factory competitiveness. This will include reducing the duplication of audits, working together on factory remediation efforts, introducing a coordinated approach to worker grievances and offering a wider range of training opportunities to tackle priority workplace issues such as sexual harassment, safety and health.
The collaboration will also enable both parties to expand their work in strategic new areas. Engaging new European brands and smaller apparel companies will bring benefits for Better Work, while Fair Wear Foundation will gain access to data gathered as part of Better Work’s research agenda, for example.
“In an industry with more than 60 million workers and much still to be done to improve adherence to international and national labour standards, we welcome this partnership as a step towards creating decent work for all,” said Dan Rees, Chief of Better Work, who was in the Hague to sign the agreement.
“Together we are capable of better facilitating cooperation between garment brands on improved working conditions,” said Fair Wear Foundation Associate Director Margreet Vrieling. “Collaborating with Better Work provides a great opportunity to learn from one other. After all, we have the same objectives, just different approaches.”
The impact of the pilot phase of the partnership will be assessed at regular intervals and fruitful initial collaboration could mean a more extensive agreement thereafter, including scaling up the most successful interventions in additional factories and countries.