Message from our CEO, Jill Easterbrook
Customers have always been the heart and soul of what we do at Boden – what’s important to you is important to us too. While we love having fun, we take our responsibilities seriously and are passionate about doing the right thing. We want to do more than our bit to take care of people and the planet for the next generation. To work towards this end, we’re embedding a sustainable approach into every part of the Boden business. We’re keen to share what’s been going on so far but we know this is an ongoing process, and we’re always working to do more. Watch this space – we’ll be keeping you up to date as we progress.
Our commitment to responsible sourcing across our business
Responsible sourcing is something Boden feels very strongly about so we have a dedicated ethical trade team that works closely with all areas of the business. We want to ensure that the products made for Boden are always responsibly sourced. This is no small job, so we continuously collaborate with a range of external stakeholders, other brands and retailers, in addition to working closely with our suppliers, to progress our work in supply chains.
Where our clothes are made
Since the early days of Boden, working with people who understand who we are as a brand and our values as a company has been fundamental to our success. We select our suppliers and factories around the world based on their expertise, workmanship and attention to detail. We consider these suppliers as partners and, where we can, cultivate long-term relationships that support the delivery of beautiful clothes for our customers.
Transparency and traceability are principles that we believe go together. The first tier of our supply chain is where the majority of production takes place and currently numbers 160 factories, across 18 countries (Cambodia, China, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Macedonia, Mauritius, Morocco, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Turkey, Tunisia, United Kingdom and Vietnam).
We want you to know who’s making your clothes, they’re a vital part of our operation, and that’s why we published our first-tier factory list in May 2018. You can find it here.
By their nature, global supply chains are extremely complex and it’s no small challenge to map them. We have been gathering data from our product suppliers in order to trace our supply chains down and across the tiers. This is a work in progress and we will be sharing how we are getting on with you as we continue on this journey.
How we work with suppliers
We consider suppliers our partners, with honesty and openness at the core of the relationship. It’s important we strive for continuous improvement, working together to ensure we are meeting both our commitments and creating a happy, healthy place to work. Positive change takes time, and we start our relationships how we mean to go on: by being open about our expectations from the beginning.
When suppliers start working with Boden, they sign up to our Responsible Sourcing Commitment, which is an essential part of the terms and conditions of working with us.
Our programme is constantly evolving, but it is centred on the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code, an internationally recognised set of labour standards (based on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions). It helps us and all ETI members drive improvements in working conditions across the world.
Read more about the ETI Base Code: https://ethicaltrade.org/eti-base-code.
We’re always looking at new ways to engage and develop our relationships with our suppliers, whether through on-site project work or conferences, workshops and brand collaboration. Our teams & senior management frequently meet suppliers at Boden’s HQ and at their offices and factories around the world.
In 2018 we are taking this open approach to the next level and will be asking suppliers to participate in the Better Buying Initiative, giving them a unique opportunity to feedback collectively and anonymously on what we are doing well and what we need to work on.
Read more information about the Better Buying Initiative here: https://betterbuying.org/.
How we engage with workers in our supply chain
We are nothing without the people in our supply chain; they turn our ideas and designs into the beautiful clothes you know and love. Ensuring their rights are protected and respected is a central focus of what we do.
What we’ve learnt from our time as Ethical Trade Initiative members (see more on this later on), and as our ethical trade programme and activities have developed, is that engaging and listening to workers is essential to making long-term improvements and positive change.
When implementing supply chain improvement programmes, we want to make sure that workers’ needs are addressed and that they have access to representation, so their voices can be properly heard. We use both individual and group interviews to understand what conditions are like at a factory level, but we are always looking for alternative, innovative ways for them to be able to share their views.
We teamed up with Good World Solutions, a non-profit social enterprise, whose vision is “for every worker to have a free and anonymous channel to report directly to decision-makers about their working conditions, opinions and needs”. Their Laborlink tool uses mobile technology to capture anonymous, real-time data directly from workers about their environment. Surveys provided feedback on factory conditions, wellbeing and the impact of management training we had implemented. Boden was one of the first companies to take this mobile technology to China, where employees are particularly tech-savvy. Information was gathered on worker-management communication, job satisfaction and opportunities for advancement. We wanted to see how this worked elsewhere so have rolled it out to several factories in India. In Turkey, we are working with the Laborvoices pilot programme, which provides workers with access to a continuously available feedback service.
Who helps us with all of this?
We feel that collaborating with others, whether they’re brands, retailers or stakeholders, is essential to the progress of ethical trade and good working conditions. The suppliers and factories we work with often have many customers and it makes sense to support one another’s efforts and work together for change. Our ETI membership has given us opportunities to tackle some key challenges.
When we were developing our programme in 2008, we knew it was important to get the right help and expertise, so joining the Ethical Trading Initiative was an obvious choice. This unique organisation is an alliance of companies, NGOs and trade unions that promotes respect for workers’ rights around the globe. Its vision is: “A world where all workers are free from exploitation and discrimination, and enjoy conditions of freedom, security and equity.”
Our membership gives us the opportunity to participate in forums and working groups about specific issues and regions, and we regularly come together with other members to share learnings and experiences on ethical trade. To learn more about the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) please follow this link: https://ethicaltrade.org/.
Here are some examples of what we’ve worked on together:
China: ILO SCORE training
Our current activity in the Chinese working group includes participation in ILO SCORE. ETI joined forces with the ILO on the delivery of SCORE Training. This programme helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sustain their participation in global supply chains by enhancing worker-manager cooperation. Workers and managers come together in Enterprise Improvement Teams (EIT), then actively engage in driving change together, giving workers the opportunity to shape their own labour conditions.
India: TNMS (Tamil Nadu Multi-Stakeholder) Programme
We’ve been working with the ETI to introduce ethical recruitment and employment practices in Tamil Nadu for workers in mills and factories who have been affected by the Sumangali scheme- a government endorsed recruitment programme where young women from rural areas of India are recruited to work in factories many miles from their home villages. After a focus on these issues by both NGO’s and the media, a collaborative programme was created through ETI – the TMNS (Tamil Nadu Stakeholder) group.
The three key elements of this programme are:
- A worker peer group programme to establish mechanisms for workers to champion their rights within factories and mills.
- Community outreach programmes to raise awareness within communities where recruitment takes place.
- Advocacy and lobbying at local and national government level to tackle current policy issues and reform required. Read more here: https://ethicaltrade.org/programmes/women-millworkers-tamil-nadu.
Turkey: Ethical Trade Platform and Programme
We have been working in Turkey for many years but, recently, this work has intensified as the country has seen many new challenges. The UN estimates that 3-4 million Syrian refugees have entered Turkey as a result of the ongoing crisis in Syria and, due to their vulnerability, they’re at greater risk of human rights violations. Recognising this is not an issue that can be tackled alone, and one that is affecting the entire industry in Turkey, we were one of the first signatories to the ETI’s apparel and textiles platform. This works on strengthening the garment sector’s ability to implement the UN’s General Principles on Business and Human Rights. Since its inauguration in 2016, this platform has reached 30 brands and retailers, employer associations, trade unions and civil society, as well as thousands of factories. Its steering group contains important industry voices, including ITKIB, TTSIS and TGSD and it has wide-ranging industry and governmental support.
The key points to this programme are:
- Workshops organised for supplier factories on the needs of Syrian refugees, what constitutes illegal work and obtaining legal work permits.
- The production of a guide to buying responsibly, preparatory research for a planned study on purchasing practices and activities coordinated with ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) around paying living wages.
- Training on workplace social dialogue delivered to supplier factories nominated by ETI member brands, and worker representative systems introduced.
Mauritius: ETI working group
Boden is a member of the ETI Mauritian working group. This concentrates on improving the conditions of migrant Bangladeshi workers in Mauritius and we attended the multi-stakeholder forum in February 2018, where representatives of brands, industry and the government discussed a roadmap for improvements. We will be working with other brands on several projects and have already taken the step of integrating the Employee Pays Principle into our Responsible Sourcing Commitment.
We will update you as this work progresses.
Other networks for change – Business for Social Responsibility
Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) is a global non-profit organisation focused on working with businesses to create a just and sustainable world. From its offices in Asia, Europe, and North America, BSR develops sustainable business strategies and solutions through consulting, research, and cross-sector collaboration.
Its mission: “We envision a world in which everyone can lead a prosperous and dignified life, within the boundary of the Earth’s natural resources.” For more on BSR’s years of leadership in sustainability, visit www.bsr.org.
The BSR has several major ongoing projects and we have been proud to work with them on the HER health programme.
The HER Health programme empowers women by giving them the knowledge and tools to improve their health, and provides them with the confidence to develop a stronger voice in the workplace, at home and in the community. The work focused on three areas:
- Peer education training
- Making workplaces better for women
- Linking women to products and services
Since its inception, HER Health programmes have reached over 500,000 low-income women workers, across 420 factories and farms, in 14 countries. The programmes have been sponsored by 50 international brands across six sectors, and HER Health has been recognised as a leading innovation for women’s health by the UN Every Woman Every Child Initiative.
Boden has had five factories participate in the HER Health programme so far, four in China and one in India. More than 130 peer educators have been educated to deliver training to over 5,000 workers, which then reaches out to their families, friends and the communities that they live in.
For more details on HER Health please follow link: http://herproject.org/herhealth.
Reducing our environmental impact
For Boden, responsible sourcing is something that goes throughout our business - beyond the clothes that you love to wear. Our catalogues are made from 100% PEFC certified paper and we work with trusted suppliers who use sustainably-managed forests. Boden is an accredited member of the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification). You can read more about their work here.
It’s not just our catalogues. The boxes that you receive your Boden goodies in are made from 100% recycled material. Our dispatch bags are the next step. They’re already made with some recycled materials, and they use an additive called D2W which helps plastic biodegrade faster. For more information on D2W and how it works please follow the link - https://www.symphonyenvironmental.com/d2w/. More sustainable options are on their way across our packaging, so watch this space.
Our Leicester warehouse, where all UK orders start, are mindful of the environmental impact of our business. They operate a zero-to-landfill policy, recycling over 500 tons of card and paper and nearly 100 tons of plastic in an average year. Our US warehouse in Pittston, meanwhile, recycled over 95 tons of cardboard and paper in 2017 and over six tons of plastic.
To make sure we do all we can to minimise waste, we donate clothing to a variety of charities, all of whom work hard to improve the lives of others. These include National Police Aid Convoys and Scope. Scope has raised over £670,000 from Boden donations in the last four years, making us one of the charity’s biggest donors. Boden US is making an impact too. They donated over 14,000 items to their charity partner M25M so far, aiding victims of disaster worldwide.
Giving back to the community
Boden’s current UK charity partner is the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, an organisation set up in 1997 in memory of Charlie Waller, a young man who took his own life while suffering from depression. Shortly after his death, Charlie’s family founded the Trust to help educate young people on the importance of mental health. You can find more details on the Trust and their work here.
Since we began to work with the Trust, Boden has donated £97,767 through fundraising events. In 2017, the entire technical team completed a 10 mile sponsored walk, raising £25,000 in just one day.
Boden believes it’s important to give back so, as well as working with various charities, we also run a volunteer program in collaboration with Benefacto. This award-winning social enterprise scheme works with around 50 small charities in and around London and is on a mission to get more professional people volunteering. Around 11 million people in the UK get paid time out to volunteer but only a small proportion ever use it. At Boden, we’re encouraging our employees to make the most of our Benefacto membership and have created an easy-to-use booking system so staff can arrange to help out on local volunteering opportunities with the simple click of a button. In 2017, Boden donated 81 volunteering days, with groups and individuals across the business doing everything from running sessions in local schools and supporting the elderly, to building community gardens. Next year we’re looking forward to continuing our Benefacto membership and are aiming to increase our volunteer days dedicated to these good causes to 125 in 2019.