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Case study: How Gildan protects employee rights

As one of the world’s largest vertically-integrated manufacturers of everyday basic apparel, Gildan directly employs over 50,000 employees and operates 30 manufacturing facilities globally. Understanding that its people are its most important resource, Gildan has strictly applied codes and policies designed to protect the rights of employees in its operations and supply chain  Tweet This!, including its Code of Ethics, Code of Conduct, and Human Rights Policy.

This case study is based on the 2018 Sustainability Report by Gildan published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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Gildan believes that all employees have the right to be free from discrimination or harassment, receive a fair wage, be treated with respect and dignity, have opportunities to have their voices heard and be part of a supportive network of peers. In order to protect employee rights Gildan took action to:

  • protect the freedom of association
  • provide grievance mechanisms
  • respect human rights

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2018 Sustainability Report Gildan identified a range of material issues, such as occupational health and safety, operational water and wastewater management, business impact on the community, energy and emissions management. Among these, protecting employee rights stands out as a key material issue for Gildan.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards              

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Gildan engages with:

To identify and prioritise material topics Gildan engaged with its stakeholders through the following channels:

Stakeholder Group                Method of engagement
Investors/Shareholders

 

·      Annual General Meeting – includes the opportunity to cast an advisory vote on the Company’s approach to executive compensation

·      Earnings Release Conference Calls

·      2017 Materiality Assessment

·      Investor perception study

·      Investor day on-site

·      On-request meetings with Board members

Board of Directors

 

·      Board meetings

·      Various site visits

Employees

 

 

 

 

·      Global employee engagement survey

·      Pulse surveys

·      2017 Materiality Assessment

·      Worker-Management Committee Meetings

·      Employee Meetings – Headquarters

·      Gildan TV Internal Communications

·      Round tables

Customers

 

·      2017 Materiality Assessment

·      Benchmarking

·      Audits

NGOs

 

 

 

·      Memberships

·      Audit requests

·      Participation in Roundtables

·      Committee Meetings

·      Conferences

·      Webinars

·      Workshops

·      Materiality Assessment

Local Communities ·      Town Hall Meetings

·      Also through relevant NGOs

Students / Academia / Schools

 

·      Mentoring

·      Internship Programme

·      Participation in research projects

Government ·      Meetings

What actions were taken by Gildan to protect employee rights?

In its 2018 Sustainability Report Gildan reports that it took the following actions for protecting employee rights:

  • Protecting the freedom of association
  • Gildan fundamentally respect its employees’ rights to form or join any organisation or association of their choosing, including unions. Gildan also respects their rights to engage in collective bargaining. Approximately 55% of Gildan’s global employees are currently covered by a collective bargaining agreement in place between unions and corresponding facilities.
  • Providing grievance mechanisms
  • Gildan has an open-door policy to encourage employees to contact management on any matter and receive immediate feedback, and hosts roundtables organised by management and employees to define best practices, identify grievances and collectively develop action plans for remediation. Gildan also offers options to report grievances anonymously at all of its administrative offices and manufacturing facilities, including through its Integrity and Social Responsibility Hotline and in suggestion boxes. Employees can report their grievances without fear of reprisals. Gildan’s confidential Integrity and Social Responsibility Hotline, administered by an independent third party, is available to all employees, suppliers and others in multiple languages to report any suspected misconduct in any area. Complaints are reported on a quarterly basis to the Ethics and Compliance Committee, the Compliance Steering Committee, the Audit and Finance Committee of the Board of Directors, and the Chair of the Compensation and Human Resources Committee of the Board of Directors. The hotline is tested annually by the Company’s internal audit department and, in 2018, Gildan received a total of 41 calls, the majority of which related to minor Human Resources issues. Employees can also anonymously place written comments in suggestion boxes, which are situated on the production floor and in the cafeterias of all manufacturing facilities in Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean Basin and Bangladesh, at Gildan’s Barbados offices and in a number of locations in the U.S. Written messages are retrieved from the boxes on a regular basis by a regional, non-management employee. The majority of concerns relate to Human Resources matters, operational issues and personnel management. Gildan seeks to fully resolve 100% of issues raised, in a timely manner. Additionally, to make sure new employees are aware of the resources available to them and how they can be used, Gildan provides training on grievance mechanisms as part of their orientation process and, in 2018, grievance mechanism training was provided to a total of 35,303 employees throughout Bangladesh, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.
  • Respecting human rights
  • Gildan is committed to respecting human rights and its Human Rights Policy, which is based on the United Nations’ Guiding Principles, sets clear standards that Gildan-owned manufacturing facilities as well as its contractors are required to follow. The policy is complemented with Gildan’s Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct, which include principles related to workers’ fundamental rights such as Freedom of Association, Non-discrimination, prohibition of forced labour and child labour. Respect for human rights is supervised by Gildan’s Corporate Citizenship department, validating compliance through the Social Compliance audit program and reporting any violation of human rights on a quarterly basis to Gildan’s Board of Directors. The Human Resources team also plays a key role in ensuring respect for human rights, on a day-to-day basis. In October 2018, as part of its commitment to respecting human rights, Gildan joined the Industry Commitment to Responsible Recruitment developed in conjunction with the American Apparel & Footwear Association and the Fair Labor Association. The commitment is a proactive industry effort to address potential forced labour risks for migrant workers in the global supply chain and signatories must ensure that no workers pay for their job, that workers retain control of their travel documents and that they have full freedom of movement.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standards addressed in this case are:

1) Disclosure 402-1 Minimum notice periods regarding operational changes

2) Disclosure 406-1 Incidents of discrimination and corrective actions taken

3) Disclosure 407-1 Operations and suppliers in which the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining may be at risk

 

Disclosure 402-1 Minimum notice periods regarding operational changes corresponds to:

  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Business theme: Labor/management relations

Disclosure 406-1 Incidents of discrimination and corrective actions taken corresponds to:

  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
  • Business theme: Non-discrimination
  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Business theme: Non-discrimination
  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
  • Business theme: Non-discrimination

Disclosure 407-1 Operations and suppliers in which the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining may be at risk corresponds to:

  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Business theme: Freedom of association and collective bargaining

 

80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

Research by well-recognised institutions is clearly proving that responsible companies can look to the future with optimism.



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References:

1) This case study is based on published information by Gildan, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:

http://database.globalreporting.org/

2) https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/

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