We are committed to respecting human rights and the right to decent work for all people directly or indirectly affected by our business. We have established regional production offices in all major sourcing and production countries. Our local presence in these markets enables us to cooperate on improvements with our suppliers and factories. Working with social improvements in production countries demands that we have a long-term perspective and knowledge of local aspects. We always seek cooperation where necessary.
Find more detailed information about how we work with due diligence, human rights and decent working conditions in our latest sustainability report.
Varner’s commitment to be a responsible employer and to respect human rights and the right to decent work is embedded in a series of policy documents and guidelines. These are made operational through an approach based on risk identification and risk management, as well as the concept of Due Diligence for Responsible Business Conduct.
Some of the key policy documents guiding our work are:
Varner Code of Conduct: The foundation for how we want to combine sound business practice with responsible and ethical business conduct.
Supplier Code of Conduct: Outlines our expectations and requirements related to responsible business conduct, labor conditions and human rights for business partners such as suppliers, sub-suppliers, and factories.
Responsible Sourcing Policy: Set out human rights due diligence as a key part of sourcing of new business partners and markets for production.
Find the full list of policies targeting salient issues in our production here.
How we work
We have established regional offices in our four main production markets China, Bangladesh, India and Turkey, to be able to address issues in the supply chain more effectively and forcefully. Specialized staff (CSR specialists) with expertise on human rights and labor conditions are present at all offices, responding to any issues related to these topics. Locally based staff enable us to circumvent barriers of language and culture. It also allows us to be onsite in the factories on a frequent basis, and to have direct dialogue with people involved in production, from management to workers.
Due Diligence Process
We use the process of due diligence as a key framework to identify, prevent or mitigate and account for actual and potential adverse impacts in our supply chain. The six-part framework for Due Diligence for Responsible Business Conduct established by the OECD is guiding the structure of our work and responsible business practices are embedded in policies, guidelines and management systems. Risk assessments are carried out on a regular basis to identify actual and potential impacts associated with our operations and products. The assessment is done with input from both internal and external stakeholders.
As a part of this process, we continuously monitor our supply chain and track the implementation and results of initiatives and projects. All new production factories must be assessed and approved by our CSR Specialists before cooperation is initiated. After approval, all factories are regularly assessed through inspections, document reviews, interviews with workers and specific follow-up activities. Inspections are executed by our own CSR specialist or by external auditors. These are mostly unannounced but can also be semi-announced or announced. During inspections, we carefully assess factories on the social and environmental criteria outlined in our Supplier Code of Conduct. We have a worker engagement approach, which means that we include relevant stakeholders and most particularly, the factory workers, in the process when considering concerns. All relevant documentation is reviewed to ensure the factory abides local laws and regulations as well as our requirements. This includes policies, certificates, licenses, contracts, pay slips and working hours etc. If we identify an issue at a factory, a Corrective Action Plan is created and a timeframe for correction is agreed upon with the factory. The CSR Specialists are responsible for all follow-up activities to the Corrective Action Plan. Additionally, we engage with supply chain stakeholders in training activities, capacity building, programs and projects in order to address gaps related to decent work and human rights.
Complaints & Grievances
We aim to contribute to ensure that all workers in the supply chain have access to effective compliant and grievance channels by 2030. We require that all direct partner factories have established proper internal grievance channels that are available to all workers and employees. The awareness of these channels as well as their effectiveness is being assessed regularly and at all audits.
We have an internal grievance channel email@example.com, where Varner employees and external stakeholders may raise concerns about our business conduct. All inquiries are handled confidentially.
In addition, we cooperate with several third-party organizations for implementing grievance channels and mechanisms in our supply chain. For example, through our partnership with The Accord in Bangladesh and Pakistan, factoryworkers can express concerns through grievance channels managed by the Accord organization.
Health and Safety
Everyone should be safe at their workplace and should not experience that their health is impaired by conditions connected with the place of work. We are committed to ensuring the health and safety for people working at Varner. We also extend this commitment into our product supply chain through collaboration with suppliers and supply chain stakeholders.
We extend our expectations and requirements into our production supply chain through formalized contracts and our Code of Conduct for suppliers. In the Code of Conduct there are six main sections specifically addressing health and safety at work.
- Occupational Health and Safety Management
- Safety Devices
- Healthy Working Environment
- Building & Fire Safety
- Accommodation Requirements
- Chemical Handling
A key measure to identify risks and breaches to health and safety in the supply chain is regular assessment of these aspects in factories. All regular assessment activities and audits include assessment of health and safety. Where gaps are identified, plans are developed to address and improve the identified issues.
The International Accord
The International Accord for Health and Safety in the Textile and Garment Industry promotes workplace safety through independent safety inspections, training programs and a complaint mechanism for workers. It is a legally binding agreement between brands and trade unions to work towards a safe and healthy garment industry in Bangladesh and Pakistan.
The International Accord began as the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh in 2013, it was initiated in the aftermath of the Rana Plaza building collapse which killed more than 1,000 workers. We signed the first agreement in 2013 and have since then been a part of each agreement renewal. 1st of January 2023 the International Accord agreement got extended to Pakistan, and we are proud to be among the 35 first international brands to sign this extension.
The Global Slavery Index has reported that 40 million people globally are victims of modern slavery. It also identified garments as a top 5 product category at risk of having modern slavery in its supply chain.
We are committed to work to ensure that forced labor and modern slavery does not occur in our supply chains and have established a Modern Slavery Policy that defines our approach to prevent, identify and mitigate risk the risk of forced labor and modern slavery in our business and our value chains.
South India Spinning Mill Project
We have been cooperating with the NGO SAVE since 2018 to address unfair labor practices in the spinning mill sector in southern India. The project focus on improving and strengthening working conditions for young women. Specific activities are carried out to increase awareness of workers’ rights among the workers, identify recruitment agents and establish best practices and improve working conditions and communication between workers and management.
The project won the community engagement and partnerships category at the India United Nations Women's Empowerment Principles Awards 2021, recognizing how the project has reached 25,000 female textile workers and their families with efforts to increase knowledge about labour rights.
We have identified a significant risk of forced labour in certain countries or regions relevant to our supply chains. Steps have been taken to limit and prevent contribution or links to violations of decent work and human rights in such regions where our influence and ability to monitor would be limited. We have signed the Pledge Against Forced Labour in the Turkmen Cotton Sector, the Pledge Against Forced Child and Adult Labor in Uzbek Cotton and have established a policy for Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China (XUAR).
Migrant workers can be vulnerable to exploitation, discrimination, forced labour and poor human rights protection. Displaced communities often face a variety of barriers that can hinder their integration into the labor market, including the lack of documents proving their professional experience and competence, and language barriers. In our Migrant Labor Policy, we commit to work to protect migrant workers in our supply chain and promote their human rights and worker rights.
Turkey is an important country for production for Varner. Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the Syrian civil war the country hosts the world's largest refugee population. We cooperate with several NGO’s in Turkey (MUDEM, ASAM, Stitching United Work) to prevent and mitigate risk of exploitation of migrants and refugees in our supply chain and in order to support livelihoods of through support in obtaining work permits and job placement.
Statement of support for increased minimum wages in the Bangladesh RMG sector
Bangladeshis a key market for production for Varner. Enabling decent work and decent wages in the supply chain is an important part of our due diligence for responsible business practice efforts, therefore we are engaged in a number of activities in Bangladesh to support improved working conditions. However, we do recognize that the current minimum wages in the RMG sector in Bangladesh are often not sufficient to cover the basic needs of workers and their families. We therefore express support for higher minimum wages in the sector.
We extend support to the Minimum Wage Board that is in the process of establishing new minimum wages. With reference to the ILO Minimum Wage Fixing Convention we encourage a minimum wage increase that enables a wage earned in regular working hours to cover the basic needs of workers and their families, including some discretionary income.
We are concerned about the reports about increasing oppression of trade unions, trade union leaders and the right to form and join trade unions and bargain collectively in Bangladesh. Therefore, we encourage all parties to maintain dialogue that respects the roles of all parties in the ongoing negotiation, particularly the roles and positions of representatives for labour and trade unions.
As a buyer we have an important contribution to enable decent working conditions and decent wages. We are committed to engage with our suppliers and producers in order to enable payment of wages that respect the new minimum wage levels as the baseline.
Bangladesh is an important country for production for Varner and will to continue to be so after the minimum wage has been adjusted and increased.