Last summer, we asked you to help us push Trutex into becoming a more transparent supplier of school unfirms. At the time, Trutex’s website offered vague promises of a commitment to ethical production and assurances that its production sites are well managed and safe. Yet it didn’t provide any evidence that what they said was true. Hundreds of you signed the petition, including education trade union partners. This resulted in several discussions with Trutex and a face to face meeting earlier this year. Here is an update on what we found out and the changes made.
We were able to establish that Trutex were working positively in some areas, but were doing a poor job of communicating what they did to the outside world. Trutex have now published a quite substantial Corporate Sustainability Report 2020 (available to download here).
The report lists its suppliers around the globe and interestingly also lists what audits take place in each factory. While it does not give the full details of its suppliers, it has a list of 20 tier 1 suppliers given in Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the UK. All factories in Bangladesh are part of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety (link).
Trutex has also joined the Ethical Trading initiative as a Foundation Stage member and adopted the ETI base code – a code of conduct which is primarily based on key ILO conventions respecting labour rights. While membership of the ETI does not automatically mean a member is ethical or that it properly upholds labour rights, it can be seen as a useful first step towards working with other brands.
We will now close our petition, but will keep monitoring Trutex and other school uniform brands to make sure that parent and families have the right to know that their school uniforms are made in decent working conditions.
We will also push the School Wear Association, which represents over 200 members (retailers, suppliers, brands etc) to make sure it’s ‘Code of Conduct’ is published and represents a real commitment to improving the ethical behaviour of school wear brands. As it stands the Association claims to have a code of practice/conduct which members sign up to which outlines ‘ethical and fair trading’. This code of conduct is now nowhere to be found on their website. Last year however, when we requested a copy, we found that the code was minimal at best. In the sole reference to Ethical policy it stated that “Members must comply with government regulations regarding employment law and health and safety issues, socially and ethically compliant, relating to their own business and their suppliers”. And that “Supplier Members should ensure they carry out regular audits of all their production facilities and suppliers.”
This is not a code of conduct but a request that members follow the law. The School Wear Association claimed it is revising its code after we contacted them but as of yet we have not seen any new code.
The school wear industry remains opaque and more needs to be done by other brands and retailers.