FCDO Business Partnerships for Global Goals (BP4GG), COVID-19 Vulnerable Supply Chain Facility (VSCF)
Duration of projects: August 2020 to July 2021.
Through a combination of UK aid funding from FCDO and private sector contributions, Business Partnerships for Global Goals (BP4GG), managed by Mott MacDonald, invested in partnerships with multinational companies and not-for-profit organisations to test and scale responsible and inclusive business initiatives which aimed to drive progress on the Global Goals.
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck in February 2020, the impact on global supply chains was immediate with reduced demand, cancelled orders, factory closures and staff laid off as a result. In response to the situation, the BP4GG launched the Vulnerable Supply Chains Facility where eight projects implemented in partnership between businesses and non-for-profits were selected to deliver tailored support on the ground to vulnerable suppliers and workers over 12 months.
As part of this initiative ETI was awarded two contracts to implement effective Covid-19 response and recovery projects within the garments sector in Bangladesh and within the agri/horticulture sector in East Africa respectively.
Combined, the projects were granted £581,000 from FCDO while the partners in the agriculture project also provided £50,000 in match funding. It is estimated that in-kind contributions to both projects provided by ETI, partner brands and suppliers totalled £283,330.
Securing workers’ rights in a Covid-19 context in East African agricultural supply chains
Working together with ETI’s corporate members Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, Flamingo horticulture, Union hand-roasted coffee, Coop, Tesco, MM Flowers and Minor, Weir and Willis, the project focusing on the agriculture sector was implemented in Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Zimbabwe in partnership with Partner Africa. The corporate partners put forward a list of suggested suppliers to be engaged in the project based upon criteria to measure vulnerability. 11 sites were chosen where the suppliers operated in the vegetable, herb, fruit, coffee, and flower supply chains. From the needs assessment carried out in each site it was agreed to focus on providing bespoke technical assistance to suppliers and workers and a series of virtual learning events.
As a direct result:
- 893 workers and smallholder farmers were trained on financial literacy
- 3,783 workers were trained on Covid-19 awareness including anti-stigma messaging
- 53 farm managers and supervisors were trained on Covid-19 outbreak control and provided with Standard Operating Procedures
- 12 farm managers were trained and supported to develop business continuity plans while 206 cooperative leaders were trained on business management
- 2,170 workers and smallholder farmers received text messages on Covid-19 awareness and 479 smallholder farmers were supported with kitchen garden inputs and agricultural support.
- 578 workers were also supported with access to a nutritional garden on their farm.
The effect of the intervention was positive:
- From 205 workers surveyed, 94% of workers felt safer at work at the end of the project and reported improvement in overall quality of life
- Among the 10 suppliers where an endline was conducted (one supplier in Ethiopia could not be reached due to the security situation in the area), all reported that the way they ran their business or farm either very much improved (5) or slightly improved (5) as a result of the project. 100% reported to continue implement these changes.
- When asked ‘Did the outbreak management training increase your knowledge on how to manage a COVID-19 outbreak on site?’ 62% reported it very much increased and 37% of the respondents reported it slightly increased their knowledge.
- At least 60 new measures have been adopted across sites in line with assistance provided.
Supporting women in the garment industry to earn a living, stay safe and be respected in a COVID-19 environment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the garment sector, interrupting both supply and demand, putting manufacturers at risk and impacting millions of low-income workers, most of whom are women. Capitalising on the work ETI has already implemented in Bangladesh, we partnered with 7 members - Primark, New Look, M&S, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Dimensions and Arco – to initiate a rapid Covid-19 response initiative among 20 suppliers in the Dhaka area. Based on a rigorous needs assessment in the factories, it was agreed to design the project around provision of tablet-based awareness training to workers using a methodology developed by Quizrr, OHS training to managers and supervisors, distribution of safety kits to all factory employees containing face masks, hand sanitisers and soaps, and provide support to factory Safety Committees. Additionally, the project trained factory Master Trainers and provided them with materials to enable them to continue to provide ongoing support to the Safety Committees once the project ended. To facilitate shared learning the project also established a Supplier Support Network inviting suppliers to come together to share and discuss challenges and response measures, an initiative that was well received by participants.
As a direct result of the project 26,237 factory employees (25,262 workers) received tablet-based OHS / Covid-19 awareness training. A QR code was also developed and marketed whereby the training can be accessed for free and used on android smart phones.
987 supervisors and managers received bespoke online OHS and Covid-19 training, 47,577 workers and factory employees received safety kits (reusable masks and sanitizers) as well as behaviour change messages within the factories, 144 factory focal points received Master Trainer training and received toolkits such as flipcharts and handbooks, and an average of 86 participants from 37 suppliers participated in the monthly Supplier Support Network meetings.
The effect of the intervention in Bangladesh also proven to be positive:
- 87% of targeted workers reported improved safety at work
- 49% felt that the sense of security and safety at work had very much improved while 44% felt it had somewhat improved
- 44% of workers found the support provided by the project extremely useful while 38% found it somewhat useful
- 37% of the workers believed their ability to cope with the pandemic because of the support received had very much improved while 40% believed it has somewhat improved while 23% saw no change
- 70% of the factory management saw the support provided as very important when dealing with the impact of the pandemic.
- 70% of the factory management stated that the support had a significant positive effect on their recovery from the negative effects of the pandemic.
- 75% of the managers stated that the way they run the factory had very much improved because of the support received and 85% stated that it is very likely they will continue to implement the changes made.
- 45% of the managers also stated that their relationship with the brands had very much improved while 20% stated it had slightly improved as a result of the intervention.
It was a challenging but rewarding journey for ETI to implement two complex projects in Bangladesh and East Africa in a short timeframe and under difficult circumstances caused by the pandemic. Lockdown measures, social distancing and travel restrictions impacted on implementation effectiveness and required a flexible approach. At times it was also difficult to secure commitment from suppliers to facilitate trainings as they were addressing other urgent (productivity / financial) priorities. It also proved difficult to provide training on topics such as factory floor risk assessment virtually as in-person demonstrations on location tends to facilitate better practical learning.
Given these challenges, we identified a number of factors that enabled us to achieve the positive results outlined above:
- Quick response from brand partners and acceptance from suppliers to partake in the intervention
- ETI Bangladesh’s and Partner Africa’s established relationships and contextual understanding on the ground, which enabled adaptation of resources to country contexts in relation to e.g., stigma and vaccinations
- Use of digital tools including tablet-based training and QR-code (Bangladesh) and a SMS awareness-raising campaign (East Africa)
- Production of customized training materials including handbooks and flipcharts to remain with the suppliers, and wider access to resources by producing translated online "resource packs"
- Team spirit and organisational commitments among all parties
- Quick recruitment, joint planning, and consultation processes within the project teams and with partners.
We would like to thank our partners, Mott MacDonald and FCDO for making the projects possible together.