Engaging in dialogue for improved framework conditions: ALDI Factory Advancement Project

Our SC Programme is based on the effectiveness of standards, and checks and balances. Audits make a contribution to identifying problems and initiating improvements – however, they can only provide snapshots. In order to achieve sustainable changes, intensive cooperation is required in the production facilities that takes place in a spirit of cooperation. In 2013, we therefore joined forces with the ALDI SOUTH Group to launch the ALDI Factory Advancement (AFA) Project for production facilities in the apparel industry in Bangladesh. This is intended to bring about improvements in working conditions and is also supposed to help establish resilient social relationships in the production facilities. The AFA Project pursues a dialogue-based, cooperative approach. The aim is for workers and managers to build up social skills enabling them to communicate effectively with each other, and to develop the motivation to solve problems together efficiently. The central focus is dealing with conflict issues such as health protection and safety in the workplace, fire protection, pay, working hours and discrimination.

The initial project phase lasted two years and 20 production facilities were selected for this phase. These participants cover approximately 35 percent  of our purchasing volume of textiles for apparel in Bangladesh. Approximately 45,000 workers benefit from this programme. We analyse the results of the programme on a regular basis. The training sessions have already led to structural changes in the production facilities in some places. Fire protection installation and sanitary facilities have been modernised, drinking water facilities and cleaning systems have been refurbished, and the safety infrastructure has been improved. Apart from structural and technical changes, the focus of the project is on dialogue about improved workflows. Employees and management report a reduction in the turnover rates and absences, alongside an increase in productivity and development of competence models. There is evidence that the ideas of the employees have been frequently integrated and communication has been improved.

In 2015, we extended the AFA Project beyond the original period. In the course of 2016, 20 additional production facilities shall be included in the programme. An alumni project is intended to contribute to using the experiences of former participants for the future, and to transform the dialogue culture into a fixed element of the everyday routine in the production facilities. Furthermore, implementation of additional social offerings like daycare provision for the children of employees is planned in cooperation with NGOs from Bangladesh such as Phulki and AWAJ.

Textile Partnership: addressing challenges together

We are only able to tackle the multifaceted challenges in the textile industry in cooperation with other business enterprises, governments, NGOs and unions. In June 2015, we therefore joined the “Bündnis für nachhaltige Textilien” (Partnership for Sustainable Textiles) as the ALDI North Group. The alliance originates from an initiative of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Meanwhile, it unites more than half of all the companies in the German textile industry. The idea is for important players in the sales markets to come together in order to jointly address the social, environmental and economic challenges in the textile sector in the supply chain – such as guaranteeing living wages or reducing the use of chemicals. We hope that work on common standards and implementation requirements in the supply chain will lead to sustainable improvements and we therefore engage proactively in the working groups of the alliance.

reviewed contents 2015