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Reports allege poor working conditions in shoe supply chains in Eastern Europe; company responses included

credit:  Davide del Giudice, Change Your Shoes campaign

The recently released reports by the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), “Labour on a Shoestring” and “Trampling Workers Rights Underfoot”, as well as the initiative “Change your Shoes” demonstrate the responsibility for respecting human rights for shoe brands and their suppliers.  

The reports found widespread denial of labour rights, including a living wage.  For example interviews with 179 shoe workers from factories in 6 countries - Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia - found that most are not paid minimum wages.

Through the use of questions provided by the reports' authors to Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, we reached out to a total of 28 firms mentioned in the reports. The companies were asked for information regarding their efforts and work in the area of sustainability and social responsibility, precisely on sourcing policies with regard to Eastern Europe: 

1) Does your company source from Eastern Europe? If yes, from which countries and what are the shares?

2) How does your company assess the wage levels and make sure that the amount it pays is enough for a decent wage?

3) What wages does your company pay at its 5 top suppliers? Please, specify countries.

4) What wages does your company pay at factories in Eastern Europe, including Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia?

5) How does your company make sure that the piece rate system is not leading to abuses such as unpaid overtime, hurdles to use PPEs?

6) How does the company make sure that PPE is provided? Is your company aware of the issues described in "Labour on a shoestring" report, such as hot/cold temperatures, fainting, etc.? If yes, what does the company do about it?

The companies' responses and non-responses are provided below. 

Responses from 14 companies: Adidas, Bata, Birkenstock, Clarks,  Deichmann, ECCO, Eurosko, Geox Mango, Manor, Migros, LederundSchuh, Lowa, Nilson

Non-responses from 14 companies: Ferragamo, Tods, Vögele, Ara, Bally, Gabor, El Naturalista, Prada, Navyboot, Pasito-Fricker, Rieker, Wojas, CCC, Camper

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Company response
20 July 2016

response by Euro Sko

Author: Eurosko

Thank you for bringing to our attention the recent published report Labour on a Shoestring.  The problems described in the report are unfortunately not uncommon in the footwear industry in Eastern Europe. The issues are problems we address in our Sustainable Business Strategy which forms the foundation of the company's ethical and environmental commitment, it is based on our Code of Conduct and membership obligations of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI-Norway).

As a ETI-Norway member we have made a commitment to implement measures that contribute to better conditions in our supply chain. We have an annual ETI-Norway Sustainability report, here we describe our progress including challenges and achievements.  The report is public.

Eurosko Norge was a part of the Change Your Shoes report Trampling Workers Rights Underfoot, please read our comment to the report on the last page.

Please see our answers to you questions below (...)

Also provided: Euro Sko's annual ETI-Norway Sustainability Report for 2015

Download the full document here

Company response
20 July 2016

response by Lowa

Author: Lowa

...Making LOWA footwear in Europe was and remains a conscious decision. We have pursued this goal for a long time and will continue to do just that. The countries where we product footwear are Germany, Italy, Slovakia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Thus, the countries where we manufacture were in part included in this research by the CCC. 
LOWA strongly condemns the deplorable conditions shown in these reports. The decision to manufacture 100% Made in Europe incorporates our assurance of fair and humane manufacturing conditions. We will be intensifying our oversights in this area in order to be absolutely certain that facilities producing for LOWA abide by such conditions. 
For the report by the “Change Your Shoes” (CYS) initiative, LOWA was one of 12 companies that responded to the survey. In answering the comprehensive 52-question survey, we also wanted to see where we stand with the efforts we have been making. It is very clear to us that we have not reached the end of our efforts. The path is still very long to reach the point where all workers have reached a level of having comparable Western living standards. This cannot happen overnight and doubtlessly is only achievable within the framework of industry-wide solutions and multi-stakeholder conversations...

Read the full post here

Company response
20 July 2016

response by Manor

Author: Manor

In its Code of Conduct, Manor obliges all its suppliers to adhere to clearly defined ethical, social and quality standards, regardless of where products are manufactured. This Code of Conduct is binding for all suppliers and their subcontractors, and contains clear instructions on specific points (see enclosed document, “Code of Conduct”). In short, this Code of Conduct forbids forced or compulsory labour, discrimination and child labour, and proscribes unusually long working hours. It calls for freedom of association and the payment of fair remuneration, decent working conditions and environmentally friendly production processes. 

Our strategy involves building up selected long-term partnerships and conducting our own controls on a regular basis. Suppliers are also audited by independent external auditors (e.g. SGS), unless they already adhere to a recognised standard (e.g. BSCI). In the event of repeated violations of the provisions of this Code of Conduct, the business relationship will be terminated by Manor. 

There are a number of different ways of calculating the living wage. These are not standardised. Consequently, our suppliers should always take the national minimum wage set by the relevant country as a guide, or exceed this figure, as set out in our Code of Conduct. “The Business Partners guarantee that the wages paid to employees equal or exceed the minimum wage prescribed by law or applicable industry-specific custom, whichever is higher. The wage paid shall be sufficient to cover an employee’s basic needs.”

Manor regularly organises compulsory workshops for purchasers and suppliers on social and environmental issues. Manor is interested in working with other market participants to help bring about further improvements in working conditions in its production countries.

Company non-response
19 July 2016

Ara did not respond

Author: Ara

Company non-response
19 July 2016

Bally did not respond

Author: Bally

Company non-response
19 July 2016

Camper did not respond

Author: Camper

Company non-response
19 July 2016

CCC did not respond

Author: CCC

19 July 2016

El Naturalista did not respond

Author: El Naturalista

Company non-response
19 July 2016

Ferragamo did not respond

Author: Ferragamo

19 July 2016

Gabor did not respond