For immediate release: 18 May 2022
Concerns raised about NEXT’s supply chain commitments ahead of Annual Meeting
Rights groups have expressed concerns regarding NEXT’s efforts to ensure supply chain workers are compensated fairly in a joint statement released on the eve of the fashion brand’s AGM.
In the light of the global cost of living crisis, Labour Behind the Label and ShareAction have issued a joint statement calling on NEXT plc. to honour its commitment to sustainability in supply chains, and ensure workers’ rights are protected.
The two organisations are raising a shareholder question to the board of NEXT plc tomorrow, calling for clarification on the company’s commitment to responsible purchasing practices, that they say have led, in the pandemic, to factory closures where workers were left with no pay, and poverty and debt experienced on an unprecedented scale.
The question cites two cases in NEXT suppliers – the Neo Trend factory in Turkey and Wai Full Textiles in Cambodia – where workers were left without their legally owed wages and severance payments following a withdrawal of Next’s orders causing the suppliers to close. The cases are given as an example of a wider systemic issue.
Labour Behind the Label and ShareAction are calling on NEXT to intervene and ensure that workers from both of these factories are paid their legally owed wages and severance. Furthermore the two organisations assert that the brand should reduce vulnerabilities for workers in its supply chain by making a public time-bound commitment to ensuring that workers are paid a living wage.
The question further queries the brand’s approach to wage improvement and how it is making efforts to ring-fence living wage levels in its price negotiations with suppliers so that workers’ wages aren’t the topic of cost saving.
Anna Bryher from Labour Behind the Label said: “The debt crisis experienced by Asian factory workers when fashion orders stopped in the pandemic, made abundantly clear the precarious situation that workers are in in global fashion supply chains. Living on a minimum wage in Asian garment producing countries (a third of a living wage or less in almost all cases) is near impossible, and building savings even less so. Brands like NEXT must urgently make sure living wages start to be paid into the pockets of workers who are making their clothes, to avoid future exploitation if orders once again grind to a halt. NEXT must do more than simply stating a commitment to change, and must stop prioritising profits that are being made on the backs of workers”.
Martin Buttle from ShareAction said: “Over the past few years it’s been clearer than ever that the treatment of the workforce in investee companies is a material risk that investors should be engaging companies on as part of their wider ESG strategy. Furthermore, responsible investors are increasingly engaging on company approaches to living wages not only in their direct operations but also in their global supply chain. Investors should pay particular attention to ensure that commercial practices are not undermining the standards they set for suppliers.”
The full text of the question being put to the NEXT plc board is available here.
Notes to editors:
Labour Behind the Label is a campaign that works to improve conditions and empower workers in the global garment industry.
ShareAction is a campaigning organisation pushing the global investment system to take responsibility for its impacts on people and planet, and use its power to create a green, fair, and healthy society.
The NEXT plc Annual General Meeting will be held at Leicester Marriott Hotel, Smith Way, Grove Park, Leicester, LE19 1SW on Thursday, 19 May 2022 at 09:30.
Anna Bryher, Labour Behind the Label, +44 (0)7786 832 035, firstname.lastname@example.org
Conor Quinn, ShareAction, +44 (0)7444 696 214, email@example.com
More information about the Neo Trend NEXT supplier case is available on the Labour Behind the Label website here. Below is also a video that the workers made to raise their case.