Note: This article predates our launch as Worldly.
On International Women’s Day, we celebrate the progress made to improve the well-being of women workers in the global value chain.
Across the manufacturing facilities that sustain our global value chain, the vast majority of workers are women – nearly 200 million in fact. Unfortunately, many of these women have too often been underpaid and exploited in order to drive greater profit margins elsewhere in the value chain. While events such as the Rana Plaza tragedy have helped the industry make improvements, women continue to work in unfair conditions as manufacturers face pressure to produce inexpensive clothing and other consumer goods quickly. It’s incumbent on all brands and manufacturers to prioritize the millions of women and men who play an essential role in the production of consumer goods. This can only happen if brands are truly aware of what’s happening within their manufacturers’ facilities.
Part of Higg’s mission is to use data to better connect businesses across the globe, so that brands and retailers can take responsibility for and work to improve their entire impact. Here are a few ways businesses are using Higg to better the conditions for women working within consumer goods manufacturing facilities.
Hundreds of facilities across the globe use our social labor assessment (FSLM) to manage worker benefits like recruitment and wages, as well as topics including health and safety. Before the FSLM existed, many brands required factory managers to complete their own unique or proprietary audits, plaguing the industry with audit fatigue. But in partnership with the Social & Labor Convergence Program (SLCP), Higg built our social impact assessment based on an industry-adopted framework – helping brands and manufacturers easily share data and speak the same language when it comes to quality treatment of workers. This assessment guides manufacturers in treating all of its employees fairly, and helps brands and manufacturers align across their core set of standards.
Recently, we added a benchmarking capability to the FSLM, and users have already started to compare their factory data with one another or against industry peers. By understanding comparative performance, brands and manufacturers can identify where facilities should be improving. This compiled data helps Higg and its partners at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and SLCP create a race to the top across the industry.
Our users have made important progress for the industry and its many female workers. According to our inaugural impact report, in 2020, brands asked 162% more facilities to complete our social and labor assessment compared to 2019. When Covid-19 upended the value chain, brands were challenged to think even more critically about working conditions and employee health and safety, and sought ways to better understand factory conditions. Coupled with more brands needing robust ESG strategies that equally demonstrate environmental and social progress, tools to measure social impact are in higher demand than ever before. Aside from rising investing trends or the global pandemic, building a sustainable value chain that enhances its workers well-being is simply the right thing to do.
With access to a comprehensive view of worker treatment, brands and manufacturers are accelerating social impact – better supporting women, their local economies and countries, and strengthening our industry for the future.