April 2009, I am visiting our colleagues in Kolkata (India) for the first time. Quite an experience. I immediately noticed a few things. The people were having a good time in our factory, but I also saw things of which I thought: hmmm, couldn't this be better?
Once back in the Netherlands I shared my findings with the management and proposed to actually make improvements. After thorough research, it was decided to go for best practice: certification by SAI (http://www.sa-intl.org). And yes, after the necessary adjustments and time, we received our first SA8000 certificate in 2012. This has since become the updated version, namely SA8000-2014. Yes, we are quite proud of that, but more importantly, our colleagues in India, many of whom are still the same as in 2009, benefit the most. How do we notice? They are loyal to us and enjoy working. It is so beautiful to see whenever I am there.
What does the SA8000 certificate mean for a factory? It is an important fact for our factory, because we want our Indian colleagues to have a good life and be assured of good working conditions. A fair wage and no child labour. The human aspect of factory life is extremely important. Ahmad Kamal Khan, in an interview for a magazine of one of our brands, said: "I always have a chat with my employees and then ask how they and their wife and children are doing".
We also received a status bronze certificate from LWG (Leather Working Group https://www.leatherworkinggroup.com) in 2018. Think of a sound management system with regard to the use of chemicals and safety in this regard. The environmental aspects of production are an important topic and that is why we have made the necessary adjustments in and around the factory. Our objective is to achieve gold status at the next audit in 2020. No matter how small the impact may be at the moment, we are convinced that every step counts. Responsible handling of leather tanning and the associated process is indispensable. Especially considering that we want to be completely transparent...
Transparent? Yes, the next steps we want to take and are already doing is mapping the entire chain and being open about things. As far as possible, no secrets. Our suppliers will also have to allow audits and gradually meet social standards and environmental requirements. The first discussions have already taken place, but we do realise that it needs time. We are committed to it, the requirements are fixed! For part of the production we can now go back to the supplier of our skins that need to be tanned. We are very happy with that.
Our ultimate mission: to be 100% open and transparent. We hope that we can reach the place where cattle, buffalo, goat, sheep have walked and lived. We realize that we cannot do this alone. We are happy to talk to you and are open to advice. How nice would it be if we could reach our goal through your experiences? And certainly, we are also curious to what extent others have fared during this process and what things have been encountered. Who wants to start a conversation, via Skype, telephone or personal conversation?