Crystal International employs around 80,000 workers across five countries

Crystal International employs around 80,000 workers across five countries

Hong Kong based Crystal International Group has become the first global manufacturer to team up with the Better Work initiative as the programme scales up across the garment industry.

Better Work, a partnership between the International Labour Organization (ILO)  and the International Finance Corporation (a member of the World Bank Group), already operates in eight countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Haiti, Jordan, Nicaragua and Vietnam. 

It brings together governments, employers, workers and international buyers to improve compliance with labour standards and promote competitiveness in global supply chains – but until now has directly engaged with brands at the global level and individual supplier factories.

"It's an exciting partnership for us," says Dan Rees, Better Work director. "We now have a lot of evidence that Better Work's approach makes a difference, both to the wellbeing of workers and the productivity of businesses, but the challenge we have set ourselves is scale – how do we get these positive results out to millions more workers in the garment industry? The agreement with Crystal allows us to take an important step in that direction."

Crystal International employs around 80,000 workers across five countries, with a presence in Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. It produced 470 million pieces of apparel in 2018 including lifestyle wear, denim, intimate, sweater and sportswear and outdoor apparel.

The agreement with Crystal International will see the manufacturing giant progressively roll out Better Work's systems for measuring and improving the company's factory performance on working conditions as laid out in ILO standards and national labour laws. An early step will be the phasing out of overlapping factory audits and remediation plans.

Better Work, for its part, will work to train Crystal International staff to identify and deal with workplace issues and resolve potential problems early, including in factory supply chains.  

"It's going to be a significant partnership for Better Work," says Nguyen Hong Ha, head of Better Work Asia Pacific. "In the long run, we see the company taking our expertise and engaging with lower-tier suppliers. In this way, Crystal International and other manufacturers can be a real multiplier of our impact."

"We would like to be a pioneer in the industry to show our commitment to upholding international and national labour standards, and our factories in Vietnam, Cambodia and Bangladesh have already participated in Better Work's projects," says Catherine Chiu, general manager of the corporate quality and sustainability department at Crystal International.

Nguyen believes this agreement will be the first of many. "Our aim is to create a network of leading manufacturers that are committed to elevating the level of compliance in the industry. We believe they can be really powerful drivers of positive change and show what kind of progress is possible."