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Interview with Lorenz Berzau

Lorenz Berzau
Lorenz Berzau
Managing Director

We should bear in mind that improving social compliance is a topic everywhere, not only in Bangladesh.
Lorenz Berzau, Managing Director of BSCI talks about various sustainability initiatives taken by his organization in an interview with Amarashish Phanse. Synopsis: Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) is an initiative by Foreign Trade Association (FTA) to address increasing business demand for transparent and improved working conditions in the global supply chain. It was launched in 2003. It unites over 1000 companies around one common Code of Conduct and supports them in their efforts towards building an ethical supply chain. It provides them with a step-by-step development-oriented system, applicable to all sectors and all sourcing countries. Lorenz Berzau is Managing Director of the Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) since 2007 and is in charge of the overall coordination of the BSCI. Taking over the coordination of the BSCI, he moved to Brussels in 2004. After having graduated with the second state exam in 2002, he joined the AVE (Foreign Trade Association of the German Retail Trade) in Cologne where he coordinated the AVE Sector Model Social Responsibility. Excerpts:

The Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) has been an age old norm for corporate and other businesses, alike. Could you please help trace this phenomenon’s origins and history?

More than ten years ago, companies implementing schemes to monitor social compliance in their global supply chains aimed at creating synergies with like-minded companies. The Brussels-based Foreign Trade Association (FTA) has taken the initiative to create such a common platform for companies, and this led to the launch of the BSCI. More synergies were seen as essential in order to reduce multiple social auditing and save costs at suppliers and importing companies. It was seen as important to use International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions and relevant United Nations (UN) Declarations as a basis as well as SA8000 as a best practice. However, the founders of BSCI wanted to create the opportunity to go beyond monitoring and provide trainings for their suppliers to pass on knowledge on good practices. This point as well as a regular dialogue among and with representatives of government, business associations, trade unions and NGOs were seen as the key towards sustainable improvements and motivating factors for supplier factories to undertake serious efforts towards improving social compliance. This development approach – and therefore not a certification system - attracted many companies sourcing globally and the growth in membership shows that the BSCI has taken a good direction.

Can you recount the journey of your esteemed organization since completion of a decade in this sector.

. The membership growth in BSCI from about 20 in 2003 to over 1300 in 2013 has provided this initiative with a larger leverage and a better potential to generate change. Over the years, not only have more than 20.000 factories and farms been monitored, but thousands of managers of supplier factories and farms have been trained on the BSCI Code and process in general, and on specific subjects such as health and safety, management systems, working time and remuneration issues, as well as other important items. In various key sourcing countries, stakeholder round tables have taken place which has enabled an established dialogue about how framework environments in these countries can be enhanced to support the improvement for social compliance. An achievement study of the University of St. Gallen (Switzerland) has pointed out that the synergies BSCI provides have created savings of approx. US$ 65m in the auditing area. In addition, haven started with a couple of larger retail companies implementing BSCI in their supply chains, it is now also small and medium sized companies who are applying this system. Many different sectors are represented in BSCI, ranging from textiles, shoes, electronics, toys, furniture, to food processing and primary production in agriculture. The dialogue with stakeholder groups has been intensified and stakeholders have a stronger role also in decision-making processes. This involvement has shown to provide invaluable input in making BSCI a solid and pragmatic system.

What are the factors that make BSCI initiative more imperative and relevant?

BSCI has become a leading initiative for improving social compliance because it offers companies a wide range of advantages: a comprehensive set of management tools, providing for a uniform monitoring approach which allows the comparability of all BSCI monitoring results across the globe. A web-based platform enables companies to share audit results, manage the BSCI processes, follow-up on activities, communicate with other companies and generate statistics. In addition, going beyond monitoring through the aforementioned training measures, as well as training for BSCI participants, and the broad range of stakeholder work provides an attractive system for companies. Another advantage is the applicability of BSCI in various sectors and particularly as it can be used in the non-food as well as in the food supply chain.

Can you please inform our readers about your unique initiative and what goes beyond the mandate taken up by your esteemed organization in ensuring most important of all - compliance on the issues and subject in question?

The goal of BSCI is the sustainable improvement of social compliance in the factories and farms in the supply chain of BSCI participants. This is a large task which requires many stakeholders to assume their responsibility as well. Importing companies like the BSCI participants are not the only ones who bear responsibility for improving social compliance. Governments, the factories and farms – as employers -, trade unions and the NGO community need to do their homework as well. Therefore, it is not a matter of the mandate of BSCI, but it is crucial that all players assume their share of responsibility. There are, however, decisions where BSCI as an initiative run by an association can’t decide: commercial decisions lie at the discretion of companies implementing BSCI in their supply chain.
Published on: 30/12/2013

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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