ETI members Marks & Spencer and Coop have collaborated on a toolkit aimed at offering businesses practical support in tackling the common challenges associated with multiple cultures and languages among supply chain workers. 

The toolkit is open source and designed for UK suppliers but both Coop and M&S are open to it being adapted within wider, overseas supply chain contexts.

The resource builds on the experiences of 24 leading suppliers from the textile, food, and produce industries, as well as recruitment and training specialists AllianceHR and nGaje. It identifies both the business and social benefits of improved worker communications and offers a range of practical, verbal, written and action steps to help build understanding and trust, both in terms of bringing workers from diverse backgrounds together, and encouraging dialogue between workers and management, ETI explains in a blog post.

The toolkit includes a 'decision tree' and 'matrix', helps assess business needs and develop a business case, and includes step by step instructions on how to develop, implement and communicate the policy. Businesses can start using it immediately.

The ETI says it welcomes "top-down" initiatives such as this "which document what responsible suppliers working in collaboration with resource specialists can do. It adds such an approach is most effective in protecting workers when combined with simultaneous "bottom up" approaches aimed at supporting workers to better understand and to better exercise their rights as workers. This might involve inviting a trade union representative to speak to workers about how trade unions can support workers where, for example they do not understand local laws and entitlements, struggle to integrate into local communities or when there is a dispute or grievance not readily resolved by internal HR teams. This combined approach from management above and worker representatives below acting on behalf of workers can offer a secure framework for effective communications, it adds.

"Social dialogue is a formalised and holistic approach to building worker voice, empowering workers and facilitating balanced communications with management. This toolkit sits well within this framework and could be a valuable addition, providing specific support for the added dimensions of language and culture. "

The toolkit is available via the ETI website.