Spanish retailer Inditex, owner of the Zara fashion stores, has outlined a number of steps intended to stamp out exploitation in its Brazilian supply chain following last month's discovery that some of its clothing production was subcontracted to illegal sweatshops.

Working with unions, NGOs, academic institutions and business associations, Inditex says it will implement "pioneering procedures" designed to ensure collective responsibility for the various stakeholders involved in the textile supply chain.

The measures are intended to "foster appropriate working conditions," the company says, and have been presented to the Brazilian Congress' Human Rights and Diversity Committee. Their main goal is to reinforce the way Zara monitors manufacturers' compliance with its code of conduct.

Among the steps the firm is taking are plans to introduce a detailed procedure for verifying that any supplier wishing to work with Zara meets the corporate social responsibility criteria applied by the Brazilian Textile Industry Association (ABVTex).

It will also reinforce its audit system in cooperation with the Brazilian Textile, Garment, Leather and Footwear Workers' Federation, with the union monitoring Zara's entire supply chain in Brazil.

And a best practice guide is being compiled in collaboration with the Ethos Institute for the manufacturing sector. This manual will be offered to the Brazilian Textile and Dressmaking Industry Association as a reference for use in the nation's textile sector.

There is also an ongoing dialogue with ABIT, an association of textile makers, to look at ways of boosting the sector's competitiveness and create new jobs.

The company has also set up a free phone number through which alleged supply chain irregularities can be reported.

Zara has had a presence in Brazil since 1999, where it now operates 31 stores and employs around 2,000 workers. Last year, Zara bought nearly 5m garments made in Brazil, and its supplier base in the country provides work for over 7,000 people.

Its actions come after raids at supplier AHA found 15 workers, mostly Bolivians, working 12-hour shifts at salaries well below Brazil's minimum wage. The workers were also living in the premises under "precarious, unhealthy and unsafe conditions," Labour Ministry officials claimed.

According to the Spanish firm the workers were employed illegally by a subcontractor, breaching the Inditex code of conduct.

Zara immediately suspended new orders and ordered the supplier at fault to bear the cost of worker compensation and upgrading its working conditions to remedy the breach.

"We would like to thank all the parties involved in this process for their efforts to safeguard appropriate working conditions," said Enrique Huerta, the president of Zara Brazil. "The commitment of all parties and their collective responsibility is the best way to achieve this objective."