Response by Esprit
We are very concerned by the labor conditions described in the CCC report “Exploitation – Made in Europe. Human Rights Abuses in Facilities Producing for German Fashion Brands in Ukraine, Serbia, Croatia and Bulgaria.”. At Esprit, sustainability and social responsibility are part of our DNA and at the heart of our strategy. Gender discrimination, repressive treatment of workers, forced labor and violation of labor laws are strictly prohibited under the Esprit’s Supplier Code of Conduct. On learning about the report, we immediately contacted our supplier in the Ukraine and shared the allegations with them. They strongly refute the claims in the report. Additionally, our external audit teams have recently conducted several audits and the factories all came back with very positive results. We are continuing to investigate these serious claims, though travel is impossible now due to COVID-19. We are reinforcing to all of our suppliers in the region of their obligations under the Esprit Supplier Code of Conduct to protect the rights of their workers.
With respect to the claims around a living wage, we strongly believe that the workers making our products should be able to live on the money they earn. Low wages have been a problem in the apparel industry for many years. The only way to address this problem is for governments, brands and civil society to work together. That’s why, Esprit joined with other brands in signing a memorandum of understanding with IndustriALL Global Union to form an initiative known as ACT-Action, Collaboration and Transformation. ACT seeks to address the problem of low wages in the apparel industry by promoting industry-wide, nation-wide collective bargaining agreements in key apparel exporting countries. Paying workers below minimum legal wages is in violation of Esprit’s Supplier Code of Conduct. In many cases, our suppliers pay workers above the minimum legal wage. We would support legislative action to lift the minimum wage in these countries.