From lab coats to food trade clothing, the Belgium-based Alsico Group manufactures all types of workwear. It is one of Europe’s largest producers of work clothing, delivering over 18 million garments and work uniforms annually to its customers.
Its UK arm – Alsico UK – is based in Preston in the northwest of England and has an annual turnover of over £33 million. One of its subsidiaries is Meltemi. An ETI member of several years’ standing, Meltemi concentrates on the health and care sectors.
Having seen the benefits that ETI membership brings to Meltemi, Alsico UK says that it wants to “mirror their experience” in developing an ethical approach and delivering improvements for workers in the supply chain.
Sue Brothers is Alsico UK’s director responsible for CSR, ethical trading and sustainability and is keen to demonstrate good practice quickly. “One of our primary aims is to expose our purchasing team to the training around ethical trade that we know ETI can provide," comments Sue. Sue is also keen to improve the company’s learning to better assess the risks associated with suppliers who are not directly owned by the Alsico Group.
“It is important,” she says, “to develop the expertise that will allow us to go ‘beyond audit’ and create initiatives that will improve outcomes for workers.
Currently, the Group sources product from independently owned suppliers in eight countries, including Bangladesh, India, Mauritius and the UK among others. Alsico UK already requires suppliers to undergo independent audits and on site reviews, and to complete self-evaluation questionnaires linked to the ETI Base Code. Now it wants to embed a human rights due diligence, risk assessment-based, approach.
Sue says: “A better risk assessment system, which we want to base on the traffic light system recommended by ETI, will help us highlight areas and locations of concern to become a more ethical business. It will also help us to encourage good practice among the organisations that purchase our clothing, not only in the mindful purchase of uniforms but in other product groups too.”