Interview with Mr Steve Jesseph

Mr Steve Jesseph
Mr Steve Jesseph
President and CEO

Started operations in 2000, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to the certification of facilities engaged in lawful, humane and ethical manufacturing throughout the world. Today, WRAP is the world’s largest factory certification program with participation from 22 trade and business associations around the world and has certified factories in over 60 countries. Mr Steve Jesseph, serves as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors, and as President and CEO, for the WRAP. He served as the chair of the task force that formed the WRAP program from 1997 until WRAP started operations in 2000. Previously he was Vice President, Compliance & Risk Management Sara Lee Branded Apparel (Consumer Goods industry) for years 2003 to 2005 where he managed all facets of environment, health, safety, CSR, supply chain compliance, product safety, security and building services for 78,000 employee group. There before Mr Jesseph had been Executive Director, Global Workplace Values & Safety Sara Lee Corporation (Consumer Goods industry) from 1997 to 2003, during which he held worldwide responsibility for safety; 155,000 employees in 130 operating companies, plus CSR compliance program for owned facilities and supply chain of 1200 finished product suppliers. On academics front, Mr Jesseph is Master's of Labor & Human Resources from Ohio State University, an MS from Xavier University, and a BS in Psychology from Otterbein College. As the entire business world rightly stresses upon ‘Ethical Production’ today, Mr Steve Jesseph also voices his concern on the same in an exclusive one to one with Ms Madhu Soni, Sr Editor & Correspondent – Face2Face.

Mr Jesseph, please tell us why WRAP came to being?

WRAP was formed in January 2000 as an international, non-profit NGO standards setting and certification body in response to allegations of poor working conditions in sewn products factories around the world.

Can you also brief about the WRAP Certification program?

The WRAP Certification Program is based on 12 Principles focusing on compliance with local laws, workplace regulations, universal workers’ rights, the environment, customs compliance and security. Facilities that demonstrate proper adoption, deployment and monitoring of all 12 Principles receive certification for six months to two years. The certificate applies to the individual facility, not a parent company or brand. Over the years, WRAP’s comprehensive facility-based model helped it grow into the world’s largest certification program for the apparel industry. In 2007, WRAP’s facility certification expanded to include all labor-intensive sectors such as house textile, fashion accessories, leather, hotels, jewelry, furniture, construction materials, food processing, glassware, home accessories and more.

So, what level of awareness do you see amongst the players? And, how would you voice the concern of ethical production in textile manufacturing?

The apparel industry probably has the highest level of concern for ethical performance as it has been dealing strongly with these issues for over 10 years.

While there is still progress to be made, significant progress has been made in working conditions and environmental performance in the major apparel producing factories around the world.

Are there any areas of difficulties that present industry makers face regarding compliances and regulations’ documentations and casualties?

Many brands and retailers have established their own codes of conduct with often conflicting standards. As a result, factories spend a great deal of wasted time trying to satisfy these conflicting demands. The WRAP program was designed to create a rigorous yet achievable standard for all factories worldwide. Thanks to increasing acceptance of brands and retailers for the WRAP standard and certification, the number of audits is being reduced and compliance costs are starting to go down.

What goes different in interest of a company when it becomes WRAP certified?

WRAP employs a management systems approach to compliance, and requires that all policies and procedures be in writing with staff assigned and an internal audit mechanism put in place. Taking this approach allows the factory owners to determine their own level of compliance on an ongoing basis, and transfer the management systems approach to other areas of the business such as quality, human resources, production planning and more.

As noted above, WRAP certification is accepted by an increasing number of brands and retailers helping to reduce the number of social compliance audits, thus reducing allocated manpower and cost.

Labor Markets and Offshoring- how would you relate them; as a prospect or a consequence?

Brands and retailers across the world have sought lower labor costs for over the past decade by moving production from the US, EU, Japan and Australia to various parts of Asia, Latin America and Africa. It seems that wages are starting to equalize and other factors such as the cost of transport of raw materials and finished product, lead times, order quantities, delivery time, availability of water and energy, and other factors are beginning to drive sourcing decisions as much or more than labor costs.

Productivity and Competitiveness; is it possible to link these aspects to increased operational costs for CSR and sustainable business solutions, especially from manufacturer’s point of view?

Taken in context, the cost of CSR compliance is negligible versus cost of operations. The average cost for a WRAP certification process is less than $US5,000. Managed properly, sustainability solutions should drive significant bottom line savings in energy, transport, waste reduction, etc. Lean Manufacturing techniques, as taught by the large consultancy TC2, have shown this for years.

Ultimately, what matters for every business house is- improving the bottom-line. So, do 'ethical production' associate itself to 'profitability'?

A very large, multinational apparel company recently did a correlation study looking at their most reliable suppliers and those that had the highest levels of compliance with their CSR program – and found a direct correlation between the two. Factory management that focuses on excellence in all they do i.e. quality, delivery and compliance, also have the highest levels of social compliance. They also view the “cost” of training, quality management systems, health & safety, environmental management and good employee relations programs as an investment that provides positive returns in all parts of the business.


Published on: 20/09/2010

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