Business Performance

Better working conditions and better business performance: Better Work’s inseparable bond

Business performance is a cross-cutting theme in Better Work’s strategy. Ensuring that factories participating in the programme improve working conditions, while simultaneously making gains in their business performance, is Better Work’s ultimate dual goal.

The relation between improved working conditions and stronger competitiveness is at the heart of Better Work’s philosophy. Improvements and greater transparency in the payment of wages, safer and healthier working environments and functioning workplace communication have proved critical drivers of higher productivity, as have preventing verbal abuse and sexual harassment on the factory floor.

Better Work’s Impact

Research demonstrates that Better Work’s factory engagement (assessment, advisory and training) has resulted in improved working conditions, crucially contributing to higher productivity. Additionally, firms enrolled in Better Work have gained in revenue and profitability, both through higher export volumes and higher prices. The longer a factory engages with Better Work, the greater these results.

The promotion of gender equality and inclusion, along with our specialized training modules and ability to establish effective worker-management dialogue mechanisms, has supported the change processes that contribute to improved productivity. Having female representatives on factory level bipartite committees and training female supervisors, for instance, have both proved extremely successful, leading to an over 20 per cent increase in their production lines.

Through its training programmes, spanning modules on communication, negotiation and supervisory skills, industrial relations, occupational safety and health and harassment prevention, the programme has brought about change across the factory floor and supply chain. Better Work also offers training courses to its partner brands, recognising their crucial role in improving working conditions and enhancing worker wellbeing, which also boosts competitiveness in the industry, including through the Better Work Academy.

After enrolling in Better Work, factories in Bangladesh have grown at a significantly higher pace when compared to factories outside the programme, both in terms of export revenues and volumes, which are 50 percent higher than in non-Better Work firms.

Training female supervisors through Better Work’s Supervisory Skills Training across seven country programmes boosted productivity by up to 22% in the lines they supervise. In Bangladesh, efficiency for lines supervised by women trained through the Gender Equality and Returns (GEAR) initiative and Sustaining Competitive and Responsible Enterprises (SCORE) programme increased by five per cent.

In Cambodia, efficiency rates between 2016-2019 grew by up to 50 per cent in affiliated factories in comparison to those who were not, with local firms simultaneously meeting their production targets and increasing their planned production. In Viet Nam, workers in Better Work factories reached production targets on average nearly 90 minutes faster after five years of engagement with the programme.

Better Work factories in Indonesia and Viet Nam registered significant progress in profitability. Here, improvements in supply chain conditions exceeded the higher costs from compliance with wages and working hours. After four years of participation, quarterly profits for Better Work factories in Indonesia had more than doubled on average and in Viet Nam the average firm experienced a 25 per cent increase in their revenue-cost ratio.

Better Work Action Plan

The programme will further strengthen its focus on productivity by capitalizing on ILO and IFC expertise to boost business performance. By leveraging its convening power at the industry and national levels, Better Work supports stakeholders to better align their efforts. This helps ensure that the garment industry acts as an engine for decent jobs and inclusive growth. Better Work will also reinforce its skills training programmes and productivity interventions to support enterprises to be sustainable as well as resilient. The programme will work in close partnership with employer associations, workers’ organizations and industry actors, with long-standing experience in productivity enhancing interventions. Social protection will also be key to building the resilience of workers and businesses in the event of future shocks. Better Work’s Business Performance and Productivity Action Plan is responsive and designed to evolve over the lifetime of our strategy, Sustaining Impact, 2022/27. In consultation with global and national partners, we will continue to refine our action plans to ensure they support long-term, progressive change.

1Supporting enterprises to make and measure productivity improvements

Better Work will more explicitly target management practices on productivity, including by establishing baselines and collecting data to evaluate the impact of our enterprise-level interventions. Depending on the specific needs of the operational context, we will also support enterprises in implementing innovative programmes (i.e. the SCORE and GEAR initiative) to better address productivity challenges. 

2Collaborating with social partners and relevant national institutions with productivity expertise

Better Work will work through national partners to provide productivity services directly to manufacturers as well as support national institutions to create an enabling policy environment for productivity growth. The programme will also support constituents to improve the business environment in the garment sector by leveraging proven approaches such as the ILO’s Productivity Ecosystems for Decent Work programme.

3Supporting employers and workers organizations to underpin productivity improvements at sectoral and national level

Better Work will collaborate with the ILO Bureau for Employers’ Activities in developing services for employer organizations to improve enterprise productivity as well as with the ILO Bureau for Workers’ Activities to strengthen the role of trade unions in supporting productivity in the garment sector.

Better Work’s current Strategic Phase: Sustaining our impact in 2022-27 and beyond

Strategic Priorities

Better Work five-year strategy (2022-27) embraces innovation around a set of strategic priorities to adapt to the needs of the garment and footwear industry around the world.


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