Interview with Jessica McGoverne

Jessica McGoverne
Jessica McGoverne
Director of Corporate Affairs

Pandemic hits site auditing, sedex rebuilds risk tool
Sedex is a leading ethical trade membership organisation working with businesses to improve working conditions in global supply chains. Headquartered in London and with offices in multiple continents, it provides an online platform, tools and services to help businesses operate responsibly and sustainably, protect workers and source ethically. Its director for corporate affairs Jessica Mcgoverne spoke to Dipesh Satapathy on supply chain issues.

How has the pandemic affected the textiles and apparel supply chain worldwide?

The covid-19 pandemic has had severe economic and health impacts on the apparel, textiles and footwear sectors and their workers. 

Earlier this year, Sedex published a report on the impact of covid-19 on businesses based on responses from over 3,300 of our members and included a section on the garments and footwear sector. We will be publishing another report shortly in November on the latest impacts reported by businesses. 

In our first COVID-19 Impacts Report, 68 per cent of businesses in the apparel and footwear manufacturing sector expected a significant decrease in revenue because of the pandemic. This percentage is even greater for businesses in this sector located in major apparel-producing nations like India (88 per cent), Turkey (83 per cent) and Bangladesh (77 per cent). Some retail brands have halted orders or withheld payment for orders already completed, depriving workers of crucial income. Garment workers in Asia, for example, have been deprived of up to $6 billion in wages across March-May this year. 

Our latest survey finds that 86 per cent of supplier businesses in the manufacturing of apparel and 62 per cent in textiles have suffered decreased orders. The sectors also saw low shares of respondents reporting extending leave entitlements (17 per cent and 15 per cent respectively) to support workers during periods of illness, allowing them to be on leave for longer.

A significant proportion of businesses (60 per cent) in apparel manufacturing reported workers taking time off for care duties. With women far more likely than men to bear the brunt of caregiving duties, our findings support recent humanitarian research that suggests women are more negatively impacted by the pandemic than men, with the impacts widening systemic gender related inequalities.

A figure calculated recently by the Centre for Global Workers' Rights (CGWR) and the Worker Rights Consortium (WRC) estimates that garment factories and suppliers from across the world lost at least $16.2 billion in revenue between April and June this year as brands cancelled orders or refused to pay for clothing orders they had placed before the coronavirus outbreak.

What steps has your company taken to address those supply chain issues?

Supply chain visibility and access to good quality data dramatically improve the ability of businesses to achieve their goals, improve operations for both management and procurement, meet demand and protect workers. The insight gained from understanding its supply chain also helps a business to understand the impact of a crisis like covid-19, and make informed decisions about how to respond. 

Sedex has pivoted to rapidly enable businesses continue to do this and support manage the impact on workers and their supply chains during the pandemic. In response, Sedex has launched: 
  • Sedex Virtual Assessment: We have developed and launched the Virtual Assessment tool that uses video technology to allow social auditors to assess site performance remotely so that brands can continue to assess suppliers, sites and working conditions even while in-person access may be prohibited due to current safety measures. Virtual Assessment is aligned to the existing SMETA audit methodology, allowing for seamless integration with members' existing data on the Sedex platform. 
  • Direct worker reporting: We have developed a worker voice tool in partnership with &Wider, which uses mobile technology to gather anonymous feedback directly from workers about their sites and working conditions. 
  • COVID-19 Modular Self- Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ): We have built a self-assessment questionnaire for supplier businesses specific to the covid-19 situation and its impact. This allows us to gather insight about the effects, business impact and responses across suppliers all over the world and from various industries. 
We have also rebuilt our Risk Tool this year. It combines inherent risk information about countries and industries with site-specific information uploaded by businesses to create bespoke risk indications for sites. 
What steps has your company taken to address those supply chain issues?
This article was first published in the November 2020 edition of the print magazine.
Published on: 27/11/2020

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.

This interview was first published in the Nov 2020 edition of the print magazine

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