Better Work is a partnership between the UN’s International Labour Organization and the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group. The programme brings diverse groups together – governments, global brands, factory owners, and unions and workers – to improve working conditions in the garment industry and make the sector more competitive.
The Better Work approach creates lasting, positive change through factory assessments, advisory services, training, advocacy and research that changes policies, attitudes, as well as behaviour. By sharing the results of our on-the-ground work, we seek to influence policy makers and decision makers to promote decent work and better business.
To find out more visit www.betterwork.org.
Better Work assesses compliance with core international labour standards and national legislation in 1,700 apparel factories employing more than 2.4 million workers across twelve countries. The Transparency Portal makes some of our key assessment findings public, revealing which factories have been found ‘non-compliant’ on issues such as occupational safety and health, child labour, discrimination, forced labour, worker compensation, contracts, freedom of association and collective bargaining.
Transparency raises compliance levels across the apparel sector. We have already tried, tested and refined public reporting systems in our programmes in Cambodia and Haiti – and seen positive results.
For example, in Cambodia, the percentage of factories that were in compliance on publicly reported issues improved by 57 per cent after public reporting was implemented.
Transparency protects the reputation of the sector as a whole. The Transparency Portal will help provide a balanced view of the garment industry, and ensure that the reputation of both individual factories and the industry as a whole are not damaged by a small number of poorly performing factories.
Transparency also helps to target factories for appropriate action. Public reporting enables brands and retailers to reward factories with good compliance levels and allows governments to use their resources more effectively to target those with poor performance.
Increased transparency has no adverse impact on exports. Following the introduction of a new public reporting initiative in Cambodia in January 2014, the sector saw export volumes continue to grow and revenues reach historical highs.
The Transparency Portal will ultimately feature all factories engaged with the Better Work programme that have had at least two assessments.
You can currently browse information from factories in Haiti, Indonesia, Jordan, Nicaragua and Vietnam. For information on factories in Cambodia, please refer here .
Better Work uses a comprehensive set of questions, known as the Compliance Assessment Tool (CAT), to assess compliance with core international labour standards and national labour law
Overall, the CAT covers more than 200 issues. On average across countries, 26 of these are highlighted on the Transparency Portal.
Better Work compliance assessments include information about a factory’s compliance performance at the time of the Better Work assessment. During the course of the Covid 19 pandemic, Better Work has not conducted traditional onsite compliance visits, but adapted visits and assessment methodologies to respond to mandatory lockdown measures in country programmes and in an effort to reduce exposure to and spread of the virus amongst Better Work staff and factory personnel. Where lockdown measures are in place or cases of the virus are high, Better Work conducts a Virtual Compliance Check (VCC) or a hybrid assessment.
A Hybrid Assessment is conducted through a combination of on-site and virtual means.
A Virtual Compliance Check (VCC) is conducted remotely by Better Work through virtual means; Better Work staff do not physically visit the factory during a VCC.
Findings in VCCs may not be comprehensive and some issues may be undetected. VCC data collection is focused on a subset of questions from each compliance cluster, including issues subject to public reporting on Better Work’s Transparency Portal, Covid-19 related questions, un-remediated non-compliance findings from the previous assessment, and additional issues that surface during interviews, document reviews and/or observation.
If a factory has no publicly reported non-compliance issues, it will be highlighted in green, visually differentiating it from those factories with one or more publicly reported non-compliance issues.
If a factory is non-compliant on any of the publicly reported issues, the portal will show the number of non-compliances, with a list of the issues.
Factories can respond to non-compliance findings directly on the Transparency Portal. For example, they may submit a photo showing that an emergency exit that was found to be blocked is now clear.
Publicly reported compliance information is not changed unless it is found to be inaccurate at the time of collection, in which case it will be corrected.
A factory’s non-compliance findings remain on the Transparency Portal until a new Better Work assessment report is published, at which point the site is updated to reflect the most recent data.
The Transparency Portal will show the following:
- The factory name
- Type of factory, e.g., apparel or footwear
- The country
- The assessment date (of the most recent assessment)
- Modality, i.e., the assessment methodology – onsite, virtual, or hybrid (a combination of both)
- Cycle - a one-year period during which Better Work provides services to a factory
- An overview of the factory’s compliance status, i.e. the number of non-compliances, with a list of non-compliance issues in the factory
- The response (if any) posted by the factory
The Transparency Portal shows factory compliance information related to core labour standards. That is to say: a) freedom of association and collective bargaining, b) the elimination of forced labour, c) the abolition of child labour and d) the elimination of employment discrimination.
In addition, this site shows factory non-compliance with legal wage and worker safety requirements, and mechanisms for workplace dialogue between workers and management.
Factory-specific compliance information will also be shown for issues that are especially relevant in the country in question.
Finally, refusal by a factory to allow Better Work to conduct an assessment on two occasions will also be highlighted on the Portal (except in cases of force majeure or where there is more than one non-Better Work audit taking place on the same day).
In line with Better Work’s standard practice, factories receive a draft assessment report before the report is finalized, and the draft report indicates the non-compliance findings. In addition, the list of issues featured on this website is openly shared with factories, so factories are aware in advance what will be posted on the Transparency Portal.
Compliance information is posted on the Transparency Portal shortly after an assessment report is finalized. Better Work does not issue any additional notification to factories prior to posting data on the Portal.
Better Work Advisors encourage factories to be transparent and highlight issues for improvement, ideally so that they can be addressed before the assessment.
Yes. Better Work encourages factories to post evidence of improvements to working conditions on the Transparency Portal. Factories can respond to their non-compliance findings by uploading text, documents or photos to a back-end supplier portal, which will then be displayed on the transparency portal.
For example, a factory may submit a photo showing that an emergency exit that was found to be blocked is now clear. They can also upload information from the original Better Work Assessment Report, which may help to provide additional context related to the non-compliance in question, such as the scale of the issue.
The site will be moderated to ensure that factory postings are related to the factory’s working conditions, but Better Work will not verify the information factories upload.
Note that Better Work will remove from the Transparency Portal any responses (including text, images, links to content, etc.) that it finds inappropriate, including responses containing any of the following:
- profane, abusive or defamatory language
- names of people, or information that would allow for an individual(s) to be identified
- content that could be considered to violate national law
- content that attacks, threatens or insults a person(s) or groups of people on the basis of national or social origin, race, ethnicity, color, religion, political opinion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, or HIV/AIDS status
Better Work updates a factory’s publicly reported non-compliance findings only when a new assessment report is finalized. However, factories can indicate progress on addressing issues at any point during the reporting period by uploading information directly to the Transparency Portal.
Better Work supports factories’ continued, sustainable improvement in a number of ways:
- Through tailored training and advisory services, we provide practical assistance to help workers and employers engage and cooperate effectively, self-diagnose and fix problems themselves.
- Through International Finance Corporation-led trade financing packages, we provide financial incentives in the form of preferential interest rates to factories making improvements.
- We partner with leading brands and retailers, providing them with assessment reports of their factories and, in turn, asking them commit to use their commercial influence to encourage needed improvements. We also get brands to stop duplicative monitoring and due diligence programmes, greatly reducing associated costs to factories.
- We demonstrate the business benefits of improving working conditions through independent research based on Better Work’s unique datasets.
Like any member of the general public, labour inspectors will have access to the non-compliance information posted on the Transparency Portal. Although the labour inspectorates decide where and when to conduct their inspections, they may choose to use this information to help them more efficiently channel their resources.
Better Work is migrating to a new IT system, which will enable new functionalities to be added to the Transparency Portal, including the ability to view factories that are non-compliant on a particular issue, and the ability to generate reports.
In the meantime, the Better Work Annual Reports provide a snapshot of the garment industry in each of the countries where we work, with an overview of the pertinent issues facing the sector. The recent Progress and Potential study also provides a comprehensive look at the industry and covers key themes such as discrimination, occupational safety and health, and worker compensation. All of these resources are available on the Better Work website at www.betterwork.org.
A factory’s non-compliance findings remain on the Transparency Portal until a new Better Work assessment report is published and the website is updated to reflect the factory’s most recent assessment data (at which point, the old data will no longer be available on the Portal). The Better Work Annual Reports provide a useful reference for those eager to understand trends, opportunities and challenges in the garment industry in a particular country.
Yes, although the site has not yet been optimized for viewing on a mobile device. Better Work expects that when it migrates to its new IT system, the new site will be optimized for viewing on cell phones.
In the interest of developing an accessible, user-friendly tool and drawing from our experience with the Cambodia Transparency Database, we elected to focus on a limited range of representative issues, including core labour standards and basic working conditions for the Portal.
In the event of an industrial dispute, Better Work encourages employers, workers, and their organizations to communicate information on the dispute to relevant authorities, including officials of the Labour Administration and local mediators, and to inform international brands and retailers sourcing from the factory. By encouraging more factories to be transparent and proactive in reporting industrial disputes, Better Work is seeking to promote compliance with national laws, build the capacity of national constituents, promote transparency in the supply chain, and create a more stable business investment climate.
When we begin working with a factory, we encourage them to be transparent, to identify their challenges and make efforts to improve them prior to their first Better Work assessment. After a factory assessment, we work with the factory during Advisory Services to address non-compliance issues and other issues identified by the employer and workers as a priority. Better Work does not seek to report publicly on non-compliance issues that may become apparent through the factory’s openness to identify and address them, or to report before the factory has had sufficient time to address areas of non-compliance.
If a factory leaves the programme, any data posted on the Transparency Portal for the factory remains on the site until the end of the factory’s cycle, which is the one-year period during which Better Work provides services to the factory. A cycle normally finishes approximately seven to nine months after data is posted on the Transparency Portal.
The most serious issues are addressed through a Zero Tolerance Protocol. In many countries, this is agreed between Better Work and the labour ministry in the country in question. Where no specific Zero Tolerance Protocol has been agreed between the Government and Better Work, the generic Zero Tolerance Protocol published on the Better Work website applies. See https://betterwork.org/portfolio/zero-tolerance-protocol/ Better Work reports suspected zero tolerance issues to the Ministry of Labour so they can be investigated and addressed immediately.
Different types of issues require different solutions. For example, if underage workers are found in a factory, we strive to have them removed from their jobs and placed in vocational training at the employer’s expense, with the option of returning to work in the factory when they reach the legal age for employment. Approaches vary somewhat across countries.
We also work with factories between assessments during Advisory Services to identify root causes underlying non-compliance issues and find sustainable solutions.
In addition to posting factory-level information on the Transparency Portal, we also publish periodic Annual Reports in every Better Work country. These reports – accessible to all via the Better Work website – include aggregated country-level non-compliance data.
Before introducing public reporting into a country, Better Work consults with a Project Advisory Committee (PAC), a tri-partite body – made up of employers, unions and governmental authorities - that advises the programme. The approach to public reporting as well as the issues subject to public reporting have been discussed with the PAC in each country prior to the launch of the portal.
Better Work is developing a new IT system, including a new and improved Transparency Portal. The data currently available will remain accessible. Data collected in the new system will be displayed on a new transparency portal, which will be more user-friendly, including more mobile-friendly data, additional filters to allow users to view data as they wish, multi-lingual capabilities and more.