Better working conditions at Colruyt Group suppliers
Colruyt Group notices that working conditions at its suppliers in high-risk countries are gradually improving. This became clear during audits carried out last year in 582non-food factories, farming and food businesses, especially in China and South-East Asia. Most suppliers improved working conditions sufficiently to allow us to continue working with them. "Our investments in audits and training effectively led to improvement, but all parties need to keep making an effort", says audit manager Daniel Bral.
Better than the year before
In 2016, Colruyt Group had independent offices carry out audits at 154 suppliers, an investment of more than 200,000 euros. The group also received audit reports from other retailers, which brought the total number of audited suppliers to 582. With about 95 % of them (or 10 % point more than in 2015) working conditions were considered average and small to large improvements were required. They received an improvement plan and are checked again after 3 to 24 months depending on the gravity of the problems. The group ended cooperation with 25 producers who refused to submit to the audit or scored poorly and were not prepared to take action.
As usual most flaws were found in domains such as working hours, pay, safety and health. Colruyt Group notices that sustained auditing does help to have working conditions improve. "When we check again after the first audit, we usually notice an improvement. And during the two-yearly re-audit all suppliers are submitted to, we see that working conditions usually stay at the better level. There are big differences between companies and between food and non-food. Non-food suppliers score quite well on average, also because we have been auditing them for 14 years now", says Daniel Bral. We audit mainly Chinese manufacturers of toys, sports articles, garden articles, paper products and multimedia.
In the food sector, conditions were less well on average. Daniel Bral: "Logical, it was only in 2013 that we started carrying out audits as one of the first companies to do so. We audited mainly manufacturers of canned, frozen or pasteurised food." In 2017, our priority goes to suppliers of fresh fruit and vegetables, where the supply chains are often more complex. "To improve working conditions at the growers, we are now mapping out all chains in order to start auditing afterwards. We use the cascade principle as a basis: each link in the chain has the responsibility to supervise the conditions at its suppliers", says Daniel Bral.
More international cooperation and training
To have greater impact, Colruyt Group is intensively working together with the international association (BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) that has more than 1,900 members. Since early 2017 the group only has audits carried out according to the BSCI methodologies at manufacturers in China and South-East Asia, who are the best known. Daniel Bral: "As BSCI member we can also consult the audit reports of all other members. A supplier who scored acceptably, does not need to be audited by us a second time. This allows us to use time and means more efficiently. We also incite our suppliers to follow free training about safety, pay, working hours, production planning, etc. by means of the organisation. And it works, since a combination of social improvements and productivity increase is beneficial for both the manufacturer and the employee."