We believe that our presence in Ethiopia has a positive impact, contributing to much needed economic growth in the country. Since we began sourcing from Ethiopia in 2013, around 18,000 jobs have been created. However, as a company we need to ensure that the growth created is sustainable and contributes to a positive development.
We are building long-term partnerships with suppliers, in Ethiopia and in other production countries. Even if we currently only work with 9 supplier factories in Ethiopia and our production volume is small, we see potential to further reduce unemployment, raise social and environmental standards and contribute to decent working conditions. Since approximately 80% of Ethiopia’s population resides in rural areas with agriculture leading the economy, the textile industry is important for the country to be able to take further steps towards industrialisation.
Earning a living wage is a fundamental human right and the reason why we, as one of the very first companies, acted on this. Summing up the first five years of our Fair Living Wage strategy, we can see that the processes are beginning to fall into place: by empowering garment workers and making fair negotiations possible, we have formed industry collaborations, that will enable the entire industry to take steps forward. We have also improved our purchasing practices to ensure that they support fair living wages, for example by excluding labour costs from price negotiations. And most importantly, within the industry approach ACT, we have, together with 21 other brands and the global union IndustriALL that represents garment workers, paved the way for a true game-changer and turning point for the industry: collective bargaining agreements at industry level supported by responsible purchasing practices.
To deal with challenges within the Ethiopian textile industry, commitment from and collaboration between for example the government, brands, investors and NGOs is crucial. This is why we have our own production office in Addis Ababa; making collaborations possible, but also enabling us to regularly follow-up on our strict sustainability standards with our suppliers, and more importantly, to develop close partnerships with them.