While price, capacity, delivery time, and quality performance all underscore the importance of China as an essential source for consumer products manufacturing, labor conditions and workplace practices in most factories are well below Chinese legal expectations as well as internationally accepted labor standards. The reality in China is that employees work 80-100 per week during peak season while being provided no rest days and earning sub legal wages.
To address this issue most retailers and branded manufacturers use a 'cookie cutter' approach implemented across all countries in which they source. Such programs entail periodic labor compliance audits which are followed by an expectation that corrective action be taken within set time frames corresponding to the types of issues found. This process is primarily driven by the threat of being deactivated as a supplier after 2-3 failed opportunities to achieve compliance. Although this approach generates decent results in some countries, and for some issues, if fails miserably in China with regards to wages and work hours. In fact, a strong argument can be made that this status quo model is driving issues underground as the majority of factories seek to "pass" compliance audits using record falsification, coaching workers and/or auditor bribery. There's even an industry of consultants that has sprung up to help factories (sometime with money back guarantees) create sophisticated methods of passing such audits.
Unfortunately, most brand and retailer compliance programs do not have factory level 'buy in'. As a result, brands and retailers find themselves in the position of either 1) being untrue to their own program parameters or 2) moving from one factory to the next (at great cost to all), only to find identical challenges. In either case, a consistent cycle of failure has been created making it impossible for brands and retailers to track actual factory performance and thus unable to impact wage and hours of work.
To address this unsustainable approach, Level Works has launched a new monitoring & capacity building support model specifically for China based on the principle of transparency and the need for continuous improvement. The Continuous Improvement & Engagement Monitoring (CIEM) program creates a comfort zone for factories, in which they're free to be transparent about their actual practices. Thus, allowing all supply chain stakeholders to track actual corrective action and relative progress against factories with similar geographical locations and product categories.
The following program cycle outlines the steps of the CIEM program.
Please contact Level Works for more detailed information about CIEM program methodology and mechanics.
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