North Face has defended the brands ethics on workers wages

North Face has defended the brand's ethics on workers' wages

The North Face says it remains committed to ensuring its suppliers meet the group's ethical standards despite a report accusing the outdoor wear brand of failing workers by not paying a living wage.

European retailers including Debenhams, Matalan and North Face were highlighted in a brand survey, published this week, as one of a number of companies having failed their supply chain workers by not paying a living wage.

The report, produced by The Clean Clothes Campaign and entitled: 'Tailored Wages', surveyed Europe's 50 leading fashion and sportswear brands to analyse what they are doing to pay a living wage.

Based on a multi-brand survey by Labour Behind the Label, the study revealed that while half of those surveyed include wording in their codes of conduct saying that wages should be enough to meet workers' basic needs; only four brands - Inditex, Marks & Spencer, Switcher and Tchibo - were able to demonstrate clear progress towards implementing this. Even these, the report noted, have a long way to go before a living wage is realised for the garment workers.

In response to the report, a spokesperson for North Face defended the brand's ethics, pointing out that it takes its workers' wages and working conditions "seriously".

"We are committed to ensure that our suppliers and partners share and meet our social, environmental and ethical standards. As part of VF Corporation, we adhere to and support VF's established Global Compliance Principles and Terms of Engagement. These principles are based upon the Fair Labour Association code and explicitly refer to ILO core conventions, covering working conditions, hours, wages, freedom of association, collective bargaining and occupational health and safety, among other important areas of compliance."

The brand said it also works with Social Accountability International (SAI), a certification body, in order to ensure "compliance with its social certification standard for decent workplaces and basic needs".

North Face added that it believes the Clean Clothes Campaign "plays a helpful role in promoting discussion about wages and working conditions".

"The North Face, along with VF, will continue to support an open dialogue with the Campaign and other stakeholders about our ongoing work in this area and to support SAI," the spokesperson said.

Another retail brand highlighted was Sweden's Hennes & Mauritz. The report noted the company had added its name to the list of companies having made public pledges, backed up by strategies, to the achievement of a living wage in 2013. However, it said H&M has not yet committed to any clear living-wage benchmark.

In response, a spokesperson for H&M was keen to poing out the report gives the opinion of one just campaign organisation.

"The textile workers own perception of what a fair living wage is serves as our definition of a living wage. This approach is the heart of our fair living wage roadmap, introduced last year. For us, their voices are most important to listen to.

"We believe that it is an outdated view that foreign companies should determine what a living wage is in for example Bangladesh. It is important the wages should be set by negotiation between the different parties of the labour market. Several knowledgeable voices such as Swedish trade union IF Metall, global unions and wage experts at International Labour Organization (ILO), are supporting the path we have chosen."