Compliance can be defined as con formity to a given standard. The garment industry is expected to maintain certain standards or compliance to operate. Some of the common compliances required in garment industry include working hour policy, holiday compensation, and wage for leaves, equal remuneration policy, anti-discrimination policy, no child labour, health, and safety policy, etc. Compliance adherence in factories is crucial to ensure a favourable working environment.

Did you know?

In 2015, some of the big apparel brands including Nike, H&M, Timberland, Target, Adidas etc. along with Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) launched a Social and Labor Convergence Project, with the aim of improving working conditions in apparel manufacturing across the world.

In this era of globalized economies, the garment industry in specially required to provide lowest possible costs with fastest possible supply chains to survive. In this race, more often than not, factories tend to put their social responsibility or social compliance on the back burner.

Social compliance is how a business treats its workers, and the environment it operates in. It is simply the minimal code of conduct that guides the business in regards to how its workers and environment should be treated, in regards to the employee wages, working hours, conditions, and environmental laws. Social compliance basically intends to protect both labour and environment interests.

Do you know?

‘Sustainable Textile Production (STeP)’ is a certification system for brands, retail companies and manufacturers who want to communicate their achievements regarding sustainable production to the masses in a transparent, credible and clear manner.

Social accountability standards or social compliance have been developed by many international organizations like Fair Labor Association (FLA), World-wide Responsible Apparel Production (WRAP), Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), Business for Social Responsibility (BSDR), and Council on Economic Priorities Accreditation Agency (CEPAA). The guidelines from these organisations are widely being used by big brands to form their own social compliance standards. The basic core areas that social compliance should include are policies on child labour, health and safety, forced labour, compensation, discrimination, working hours, discipline, management systems and right to free association and collective bargaining. In addition to these core areas, local culture and government regulations also become a part of social compliance in the industry.

Do you know?

In 2006, The Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP) was launched by the Consumer Goods Forum with the aim to improve the working conditions in the global supply chains.

Social compliance in the Indian garment industry

Indian garment exporters’ deal with large global firms, hence the level of social compliance expected from them is comparatively higher than its neighbouring counterparts. There are some core labour standards or government guidelines that Indian garment manufacturers follow to adhere to social compliance, both within their operational domain and with their vendors, collaborators, and distributors; they are involved within the supply chain. These labour standards include ensuring no workplace discrimination is taking place, providing freedom of association, right to collective bargaining, and eliminating all forms of child labour and forced or compulsory labour.

SA8000 is one of the world’s first auditable social certification standards for decent workplaces, across all industrial sectors.The 9 SA8000 social compliance requirements:

  1. Child Labour: No child with age under 15 should be employed by a factory
  2. Health and safety: A safe and healthy workplace environment must be provided by the factory that should also prevent any potential health and safety incidents and work-related injury or illness from occurring
  3. Freedom of association and collective bargaining: All staff has the right to form, join and organize trade unions and to bargain collectively on their behalf
  4. Discrimination: A factory is prohibited from engaging in discrimination in hiring, remuneration, access to training, promotion, termination or retirement
  5. Disciplinary practices: A factory is prohibited from engaging in or tolerating the use of corporal punishment, mental or physical coercion or verbal abuse of employees.
  6. Working hours: A factory must comply with applicable laws, collective bargaining agreements and industry standards on working hours, breaks and public holidays.
  7. Remuneration: The right of staff to a living wage must be respected by the factory.
  8. Management systems: Compliance must be reviewed and implemented to the SA800 Standard through developed policies and procedures.

Social compliance & labour productivity

To implement social compliance, businesses need to take care of their workers, listen to them, and empower them. A research project was conducted on ‘humanization for garment workers’. The inferences from the project highlighted the importance of balance between benefits to the business, and benefits to the workers. The research mainly included the management helping and listening to their workers, enabling new workers to settle in quickly, and overall empowering them.

Businesses that take social compliance seriously pay more honest attention to worker health and safety, training and development and make efforts towards improving workers’ communication with the management. Collectively, these efforts translate into better job satisfaction, loyalty, motivation, retention and eventually productivity.

Multiple studies and researches have time and again shown turnover rates falling up to half their previous figures as a result of a consistent commitment to social compliance. Commitment to ethical and humane treatment of workers, adherence to social compliance can be the factor that differentiates a business from its cut-throat competition in the apparel industry.