Transparency in supply chains
At Acne Studios we take pride in creating unique designs, reflected in our collections covering men’s and women’s ready-to-wear, footwear, accessories and denim. We believe that being proud of our products includes being proud of the conditions in which they are made. Progress, improvements and challenges related to our work towards an ethical supply chain are reported on an annual basis in our Social Report.
In line with the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act, we provide the following information about our efforts to source our products in a responsible manner.
Acne Studios has been a member of Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) since 2008. Fair Wear Foundation is a multi-stakeholder initiative directed by trade unions, business associations and NGOs that helps us to improve labour conditions at the factories that manufacture our products.
FWF developed a framework to monitor our production and ensure that our products are made under fair and safe working conditions. This framework, adjusted to our priorities and policies, forms the basis of our Acne Studios Sourcing Policy. The core and starting point is the Code of Labour Practices which lists all social standards that our suppliers need to endorse and agree to work towards. We are committed to implement these standards in our supply chain and to improve working conditions for those making our products. FWF also checks Acne Studios each year to evaluate our performance. In the last two years Acne Studios has received their highest grade ‘Leader’ for our achievements.
Before we decide to start a business relationship with a new supplier, our CSR team will analyse the human rights and health & safety risks associated with sourcing from this specific supplier and country. After this risk assessment, we require all production facilities to complete the Acne Studios self-assessment questionnaire before an order can be placed. The self-assessment questionnaire contains information about the Code of Labour Practices and what it means in practice, and includes questions about and commitment to our Code of Labour Practices. At this stage, we also request suppliers to inform us about their production set-up and the use of subcontractors, ask them to share results of social audits done in the past and require the implementation of the FWF complaints procedure in the factory. Most new suppliers are also visited by someone from our production department before we place any orders to have a good understanding of their performance and capacity and to get a first impression of the general working conditions and health & safety standards.
Our goal is to have a stable supplier base that can meet the different requirements for our various product groups. This year, we were able to maintain the stability of our supply chain and currently half of the order value is with factories that we have been working with for more than five years.
In cooperation with Fair Wear Foundation we regularly conduct initial and follow-up audits at our suppliers to inspect if the factories work in line with our social standards. Our monitoring programme covers all manufacturing and processing units after fabric production. To create an atmosphere of mutual trust and involvement, audits are always announced upfront.
We audit factories that are located in countries with higher risks for human rights and labour violations. Our suppliers are located in Italy, Portugal, China, Romania, Lithuania, Turkey, South Korea, Bulgaria, Poland, Albania, Morocco, Tunisia, France and Latvia. We audit our production facilities in China, Turkey, Bulgaria, Albania, Morocco and Tunisia together with FWF. In Italy and South Korea, where FWF is not represented, we work together other renowned external auditors. Factories located in these countries are audited at least once every three years. During an audit the social, health and safety conditions at the factory are checked based on 1) a review of documents such as wage records, time-records, health and safety documentation, etc. 2) a visual inspection of health and safety conditions at the production area, and 3) interviews with the management and workers. After the audit, a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) is set up to jointly start a process of continuous improvement. Follow-up on improvements is done via monitoring visits or in writing.
As noted above, all our direct suppliers and subcontractors are required to sign and comply with our Code of Labour Practices via the self-assessment questionnaire, which explicitly states that ‘there shall be no use of forced, including bonded or prison, labour. The questionnaire also states that extra attention should be given to economic bondage: employees are not free to leave their jobs, for example, because they have insurmountable debts with the company or a labour contractor. This specific standard is based on the ILO Conventions 29 and 105. More generally, our Code of Labour Practices is based on the conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
In addition to above monitoring process, all our factories in both high risk and low risk countries are evaluated by the CSR Department every year. The main purpose of the supplier evaluation system is to serve as a guidance for Acne Studios to determine sourcing and monitoring priorities. It should not be seen as a strict ‘supplier pass or fail’ system used to compare or grade suppliers. Because the improvement of labour conditions is a continuous process that is never completed, the evaluation is not a fixed rating but rather a dynamic assessment. The CSR department continuously re-evaluates the status of the factory after audits, follow-up audits, trainings or other relevant changes or updates in the situation at the factory.
To make sure workers understand the standards in the Code of Labour Practices and have access to remedy, a Worker Information Sheet in the local language needs to be posted in all factories producing for Acne Studios. The supplier should post it on a spot in the factory that is visible for workers (i.e. on a notice board) and send a photo of the posted Code to the CSR Department. During audits and trainings, workers are actively informed about the complaints mechanism as well. The Worker Information Sheet is a crucial part of our monitoring framework as it includes contact details to the FWF ‘complaints hotline’. Workers can anonymously call or email FWF’s local complaints handler to report critical labour issues that they have not been able to solve with the factory management or local authorities. After a complaint is received, a research and remedy procedure will be put in motion to come to a solution together with FWF, the supplier and Acne Studios together.
In addition to the self-assessment questionnaire, social audits, CAP follow up and the complaints mechanism, we encourage suppliers to attend training and capacity building events offered by FWF. This could either be FWF seminars in certain countries focusing on specific topics or the FWF Workplace Education Programme (WEP) that is held at individual factories. The purpose of this training programme is to improve communication within factories on labour issues, aimed at both management and workers. In South Korea and Italy, where FWF is not represented, we arrange our own trainings with experts on labour rights in the garment sector or in cooperation with other brands.
Internally, when new employees are on-boarding the production department they have an introduction meeting with the CSR team and get information on our monitoring programme and how it is related to their new position. Before order placement, the CSR team has an update meeting with each head of department and with the product managers of each product group to be updated on the sourcing plans and monitoring results per supplier. At the same time, the CSR team informs and trains them on new developments during these meetings. All staff from the production department is also actively involved in the CSR monitoring procedure as they are trained to introduce our CSR requirements to potential new suppliers, check for the presence of the Worker Information Sheets whenever they visit a factory, and every first Acne representative visiting a new factory, does a basic check of the general working conditions.
For more information and details, please visit our sustainability page.