• More than 1,500 garment factories currently engaged with the Better Work programme across seven countries.
  • Yet only two factories have so far met the initiative's stringent criteria.
  • Better Works says there is now a need to redirect its resources to those factories struggling to develop sustainable systems for complying with international and national labour standards.
A factory in Cambodia @BetterWork

A factory in Cambodia @BetterWork

Of the more than 1,500 garment factories currently engaged with the Better Work programme that operates across seven countries, only two have so far met the initiative's stringent criteria.

Better Work – a collaboration between the United Nations' ILO and the International Finance Corporation – brings together all levels of the garment industry to improve working conditions and boost the competitiveness of businesses. Currently active in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Haiti, Indonesia, Jordan, Nicaragua and Vietnam, with a pilot in Egypt, the programme aims to create lasting change through assessments, training, advocacy and research.

However, there is now a need for Better Work to redirect its resources to those factories that are struggling to meet the criteria of the programme.

Of those factories engaged in the initiative, only two have so far met the stringent criteria, according to a Better Work blog post. Sabrina Garment Manufacturing Corp employs around 6,000 workers and produces sporting goods for Nike and Asics in Cambodia. While Thuan Phuong Embroideries Garments Company Ltd in Vietnam employs some 1,250 staff and produces apparel for Target, Levi Strauss, and Nike.

Better Work says it will begin highlighting garment factories that have demonstrated high levels of labour compliance, more advanced worker-management dialogue, effective management systems and a full commitment to staff learning.

"We have deliberately set the bar high," explains Ivo Spauwen, a technical specialist for Better Work. "It is not enough for factories to show high compliance levels, they also have to prove they have the systems and social dialogue in place to sustain those levels of compliance in the future. A number of other factories have almost met the criteria and are determined to do so next time around, but we want these factories to really stand out as leaders, providing a compelling example to others."

By highlighting these factories, Better Work says it has an opportunity to identify models of good practice. Identifying the best-performing factories will also allow Better Work, government labour inspectors and international brands to redirect resources towards other factories that are struggling to develop sustainable systems for complying with international and national labour standards.

The two factories that have achieved the compliance levels receive a benefits package tailored to their specific needs. Sabrina and Thuan Phuong will be featured on the online platform Better Work uses to provide updates to global brands, for example, and the factories will be profiled at events such as Better Work's national and regional Business Fora, including the forum taking place in Hong Kong this week.

Meanwhile, other high-performing factories will be advised on how to meet the exacting criteria of Better Work, with both factory managers and representatives of partner brands provided with regular progress reports and personalised guidance.

Better Work says as many as 100 factories are close to meeting the criteria status and hope to make the cut later this year or in 2019.