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

Get RSS feed of these results

All components of this story

19 July 2016

Pasito-Fricker did not respond

Author: Pasito-Fricker

Company non-response
19 July 2016

Prada did not respond

Author: Prada

Company non-response
19 July 2016

Rieker did not respond

Author: Rieker

Company non-response
19 July 2016

Tods did not respond

Author: Tods

19 July 2016

Trampling workers rights underfoot

Author: Julia Spetzler, Change Your shoes Campaign

Change Your Shoes initiated this shoe company assessment to get a snapshot of where the shoe industry stands in regard to social sustainability and to provide a resource for consumers on which brands are doing more and which are doing less to combat problems occuring throughout the global supply chain concerning workers´ rights. Therefore, 28 companies with an influential presence on high streets across Europe have been assessed. More than 24 billion pairs of shoes were produced in 2014,1 which perfectly represents the dynamic global market where fast fashion dictates consumption trends in Europe and in every emerging country where affluence is consistently growing. Labour-intensive processes, combined with time and price pressures, have an impact on working conditions and workers’ lives, no matter where they are based. Global dynamics of the sector have an impact also on working conditions within Europe, where decades of the global race to the bottom have reduced wages among low-income as well as high-income economies. This is generating an important phenomena of relocation back to Europe. As campaigners advocating for labour and human rights, we are deeply concerned about the working conditions of workers producing our shoes, wherever they live. It’s time for change, it’s time to change the way our shoes are produced.

Read the full post here

Company non-response
19 July 2016

Vögele did not respond

Author: Vögele

Company non-response
19 July 2016

Wojas did not respond

Author: Wojas

Company response
20 July 2016

response by Adidas

Author: Adidas

...With respect to the general questions posed on footwear production in Eastern Europe we can share the following information:

  • The vast majority of our footwear production takes place in Asia (96%) and in South America (3%).

  • Within Europe, a small amount (less than 1%) of specialty product is made in an adidas- owned footwear manufacturing plant in Southern Germany and we have recently launched a new, highly innovative and fully automated “speed factory”, which is also located in Germany.

  • We do subcontract a small amount of upper stitching to a factory in Bosnia & Herzegovina, which is named in our Tier 2 public disclosure list (see http://www.adidas-

  • The uppers manufacturer is regularly audited for social and environmental compliance, including occupational safety. We have seen no evidence of unpaid overtime or the provision of PPE being a problem at this plant. We have, however, addressed the need for improved fire safety...

Download the full document here

20 July 2016

response by Birkenstock

Author: Birkenstock

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to comment on the findings of the “Labour on a shoestring” study...we welcome the aim of the study, which is to point out the precarious working conditions in the global footwear industry. As a company that predominately manufactures its products in its own production facilities in Germany, however, we feel that the study does not directly apply to us. The conditions mainly highlighted in eastern and southern Europe are not comparable in any way to the production realities in our own facilities. Our core products, sandals, which make up the vast majority of our overall revenue, are exclusively made in Germany. Preliminary products, such as buckles, rivets, upper material, etc., are also made in our own production facilities. This high level of in-house production depth, which is atypical of the footwear industry, allows us as a premium manufacturer to control the added value chain almost completely. Natural raw materials are purchased from long-standing partners in line with our Code of Conduct.

Birkenstock currently has around 3,000 employees, of which about 2,900 work in Germany. The approximately 100 remaining employees work in sales offices in Brazil, Spain, Hong Kong, and the USA. Our products are manufactured under optimal conditions in line with German employment legislation and EU law. Work compensation in our production facilities is also not comparable in any way to the conditions highlighted in the study. Our employees even in the lower wage brackets receive compensation that is significantly higher than the statutory minimum wage, with additional performance-related bonuses of up to 20% of their base wage. Furthermore, our employees receive additional benefits: in the last fiscal year, they received a general pay raise, plus a one-off bonus for their contributions to the business’s positive growth. All industrial employees receive 13 monthly salaries and are entitled to 30 days of leave. Older employees receive two additional days of leave from the age of 58.

20 July 2016

response by Clarks

Author: Clarks

...It’s really important that we understand the working conditions of people making Clarks products and we do this by auditing and assessing our supplier factories. In 2015 the audit programme covered over 99% of our first tier footwear production, i.e. the factories that produce the finished product. We also undertake audits of second tier material and component suppliers. These audits currently cover tanneries and sole suppliers that supply approximately 80% of the volume of these materials from Clarks' nominated suppliers as well as some other component and material suppliers. Using the information gathered during these audits, we work with our suppliers to ensure that the high standards that we expect in our products are reflected in the workingconditionsinwhichtheyaremade. Withdrawingourbusinessremainsthefinalsanction.

Onlyaverysmallproportion,circa 2% of Clarks total footwear production takes place within Europe. The standards we expect of our suppliers there are the same as for all other sourcing locations...

Download the full document here