Driving Meaningful Change for the Betterment of People
In our recently published Made For Change report, we outline our progress in prioritizing the people we employ, the planet we inhabit, and the products we produce. At the heart of our people-centric focus is a commitment to workforce development, the health and safety of our workforce and the communities in which they live, and a forward-looking worker rights initiative. Our internally-driven development programs across the company are paired with our investment of time, as well as financial contributions made in close collaboration with partners within the communities we serve.
VF’s operations and extended supply chain is comprised of upwards of one million people working in nearly 60 countries. We have a responsibility to better the lives of all those who have a hand in making our products. To achieve this, we have defined a holistic strategy around health and safety, worker rights, and worker and community development. We are actively engaging stakeholders to help provide our associates, who enforce our supplier standards and support factory capacity building, with the resources, knowledge and skills to execute our programs and achieve our goals with internal accountability. And it all starts with our people.
Health & Safety
Our health and safety program is rooted in driving action through data, prioritizing those elements that improve worker engagement. In FY2020, we began the global rollout of an employee-facing health and safety reporting application that empowers employees to maintain a safe environment by identifying issues and reporting risks.
In CY2020, we also identified 151 supplier factories based in locations that are high-risk for water scarcity. We have committed to expand our water risk assessment process by working with nonprofit partners. These factory-level water stress risk analyses will inform the next steps in our water management strategy.
When Covid-19 threatened the livelihood of millions of garment workers in Bangladesh due to factory shutdowns, The VF Foundation, which provides grants to organizations that align with our core beliefs, donated funds toward relief efforts through its partnership with GlobalGiving. As a result, more than 5,500 households received a cash stipend to buy basic necessities and food.
As the pandemic also impacted many of our workers and families across the supply chain, we engaged with suppliers to understand their obligations and implemented financing programs. We also joined international organizations in a united call to action to further support garment workers’ rights throughout the pandemic and beyond. VF along with The VF Foundation donated $10M+ at the onset of the pandemic to Covid-relief efforts including urgent medical needs and those struggling to cope in the aftermath of the global pandemic.
VF finalized its Worker Rights strategy in FY2020, identifying outcomes within our supply chain that have the greatest opportunity for impact: freedom of association; responsible recruitment; gender-based violence and harassment; and child rights.
In Jordan, Taiwan and Thailand, we are improving workers’ access to responsible recruitment channels through our partnership with the International Organization for Migration. Our Your Voice Matters program launched digital tools that measure the program’s impact on workers by leveraging remote impact assessment and a digital training platform. Across the board, we are committed to measuring activity outputs, and having mechanisms in place to assess workers’ understanding of their fundamental rights.
Milestones and Forward-Looking Priorities
- Freedom of Association
- In 2018, we launched our Industrial Relations Pilot Program with the ILO’s Better Work Initiative to enhance collaboration and communications at factories while building capacity for workers, representatives and management.
- Looking ahead:
- All relevant VF associates will be trained on industrial resolution best practices through the Better Work Academy by 2023.
- Workers in strategic supplier factories will be aware of their rights to enable effective social dialogue by 2025.
- Strategic supplier factories will have functioning grievance resolution mechanisms in place by 2025.
- Responsible Recruitment
- We are a signatory to The Mekong Club’s business pledge against modern slavery, as well as the American Apparel and Footwear Association and the Fair Labor Association’s Apparel and Footwear Commitment to Responsible Recruitment.
- In 2020, 85% of associates on the Global Assurance and Sustainable Operations teams completed training on responsible recruitment and employment best practices. The teams conduct audits and support factory capacity building.
- Looking ahead, recruitment of all migrant workers in our supply chain will meet our “Supplier Guidelines for the Responsible Recruitment and Employment of Migrant Workers” by 2024, and workers will have the freedom to return home at any time.
- Gender-Based Violence & Harassment
- In 2020, we published our Commitment to Eradicating Gender-Based Violence and Harassment (GBVH) and finalized our five-year strategy for implementing across our supply chain.
- In 2021, we launched our GBVH training program that will increase VF associates’ knowledge of best practices and procedures to address violence and harassment within the workplace.
- Looking ahead:
- All relevant associates globally will be trained in gender-based violence and harassment in the World of Work with CARE International by
- Tier 1 factories will have an anti-harassment and abuse policy in place and functioning anti-harassment committee by 2023.
Worker & Community Development
Our Worker and Community Development (WCD) program leverages VF’s scale, influence and insight to improve the lives and futures of the workers who support our global supply chain. Our program was created based on feedback from more than 5,000 factory workers. Their responses pointed to three main priorities: access to water and sanitation; adequate health and nutrition; and affordable childcare and education.
As part of our WCD program, we provide access to clean water and sanitation in high resource areas. For example, in Cambodia we partnered with WaterAid to bring safe drinking water and sanitation systems to rural communities near VF supplier factories. To date, this partnership has reached more than 44,000 people through water, sanitation and hygiene WASH interventions and knowledge-building activities. When the pandemic hit, we shifted gears to prioritize Covid-19 prevention. As a result, from March-July 2020, we reached approximately 350,000 people through awareness-raising messages, hand-washing trainings and PPE material distribution. In 2021, focus shifted to mass vaccination efforts through which VF facilitated access to vaccinations for 31,500 workers and 291,000 community members (as of Sept. 2021).
Through FY2020, we reached a total of 290K workers in nine countries through the WCD programs. Through our nutrition programs, we have impacted 105,766 workers and families. Through the WCD program, we have partnered with several factories to institute worker well-being programs including childcare and education, impacting 86,250 workers. As of today, we have reached nearly 550,000 people, putting us halfway toward our goal of improving the lives of one million people by 2025 and two million people by 2030.
Gender & Diversity
Women across South Asia face social stigma during their monthly menstruation period. The shame associated with periods can lead to high absent rates in factories and impact the well-being of female workers. Simply put, women deserve better. In partnership with Business for Social Responsibility (BSR), VF’s WCD program developed Menstrual Hygiene Management modules as part of the HER Project in Chennai and Bangalore, India. The educational pilot launched in 2018 and was expanded in FY2020. In addition to education, we’re improving access to feminine hygiene products to create an enabling environment for women workers.
In CY2020, CEO Steve Rendle signed the UN’s Women’s Empowerment Principles strengthening our commitment to advance women’s rights across our value chain. We are working to improve pay equity, equal representation and gender-responsive supply chain practices.
Employee Resource Groups
Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) play a central role in fostering connection and supporting the rising tide of activism and advocacy. These groups provide VF associates opportunities to develop leadership and business skills while engaging in authentic conversations designed to increase learning and sense of community. A few of the ERGs at VF include:
- ACE Diversity: Connect. Engage. Diversity: Building an inclusive culture for our BIPOC associates.
- VF Pride: Fostering an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ associates and allies.
- WOVEN: Women of VF Empowerment Network promotes women’s leadership, attracting the best female talent, and builds a community of safe and honest conversations.
At this moment that is truly Made for Change, community impact is just one important component of our prioritization of people, planet and product. As we work toward a more conscious future across our industry, we hope you’ll read more about our Made for Change commitments, either in our report synopsis here, or in the complete Made for Change report.