Labor Solutions seeks to change the way buyers view risks in their supply chain; Rather than asking "is there sexual harassment in my supply chain?," we want buyers to ask, "how did my suppliers handle an allegation of sexual harassment?" While the latter requires a more nuanced assessment, it aligns with reality and ensures that when inevitable risks emerge, suppliers are incentivized and equipped to manage them in a way that protects the worker, supplier and brand, not just the supplier. The following case demonstrates how Labor Solutions' tools uncovered sexual harassment and led to a dialogue that created lasting change within a facility.
Background and Tools: WOVO's Connect feature is a supplier-led communication and grievance case management system that allows for global brand oversight. Questions, reports and suggestions are received daily by employers around the world and range in content from gratitude to serious concerns.
As employers use WOVO to respond to workers, workers gain trust in the system. Trust leads to an increase in the volume of messages and in severity of topics. When employers fail to respond to workers concerns with respect and integrity, the volume of messages decreases.
This model allows buyers to identify supplier risks as well as observe the health of the supplier-worker relationships, by simply looking at the volume of messages received over time. Key to success is not penalizing suppliers for the receipt of a grievance. Rather a collaborative approach and a focus on ensuring remediation occurs.
Case: A sexual harassment allegation was made by a worker using WOVO. The worker reported that women in the facility were being humiliated, and verbally and physically harassed.
The factory was able to use WOVO to respond to the worker, gather additional information and initiate an investigation. Management identified the offenders and placed them on immediate leave while completing the investigation.
In a review with the factory, the brand noticed the message and was able to see the case management and reports. The brand asked for additional steps to be taken to address the report.
With this interaction the factory saw their client, the brand, as a partner, not as a threat, and was open to collaboration. The investigation included extensive interviews and sought to determine the breath and length of the abuse.
Impact: The conclusion of the investigation indicated that the offenders were guilty and as a result were terminated. Beyond their termination, the factory continued to work on the issue by updating policies and procedures, establishing a gender-based violence working group, adding additional CCTV and providing additional training for all managers in the factory, as well as all workers. The victims were also provided with support from counselors. All actions taken by the factory were announced using the WOVO newsletter and broadcast functions, to ensure all workers were aware. Communicating these actions was important for the factory to build back the environment of trust between workers and management.
Results were clear, workers' trust in the effectiveness of the system increased, and there was a 600% increase in utilization following the resolution of the case.
Due to the nature of the case the factory and brand have asked for their names not to be shared, but are happy that their story and the lessons learned can be.