The Adidas SMS Hotline allows workers to express their concerns

The Adidas SMS Hotline allows workers to express their concerns

The use of mobile phones to monitor workers in apparel supply chains is continuing to gain momentum, with sportswear giant Adidas now planning to roll the service out to all of its suppliers in the next few years.

Looking for new ways to connect directly with the workers making its products, the company first trialled its 'SMS Hotline for workers' initiative back in 2012 at one of its main footwear suppliers in Indonesia.

Following the success of the pilot project, in 2013 Adidas rolled out the service to four additional suppliers in Indonesia and one in Vietnam. Since the beginning of the project almost 35,000 factory workers have been given access to the hotline services.

And the company now says an additional nine suppliers in Indonesia and ten in Vietnam are keen to implement the service in their factories.

"Currently, we are also looking at the possibility of rolling out this service in other countries," explains Adelina Simanjuntak, area manager in the Adidas Group's social and environmental department, adding that: "A gradual, but consistent, roll-out will be the key to that success.

"In the next few years, we plan to extend this service to all other Adidas Group suppliers."

The initiative takes advantage of the fact that the vast majority of factory workers have mobile phones, and allows factory workers to send a simple SMS to the factory management if they are concerned that their rights are being compromised or simply to ask for clarification on certain issues.

As well as raising awareness about issues that only workers can see, the system has allowed the factories to detect problems early on and address them before they become a concern for workers and unions. It also increases accountability, since the management's prompt response to the concerns is vital.

Adidas says workers have expressed concerns over the cleanliness of shared facilities like toilets - as well as issues such as being asked by their supervisors to work during their breaks, and warning of a potential strike in one factory.

"The SMS Hotline System is definitely filling in the gap that sometimes exists between factory management and workers when it comes to communication," Simanjuntak adds.

But she also points that raising awareness of the service among workers is vital to its success, and that there have also been concerns over anonymity.

just-style last year reported how Marks & Spencer has been trialling a surveying system in partnership with Labor Link, while Wal-Mart was teaming up with a company called Labor Voices.

And both groups of brands and retailers working to improve fire and building safety in the Bangladesh garment sector are using anonymous worker hotlines as a key tool to enable workers to report their concerns.