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2020 Sustainability Report
published 2021/08/02

Independent Complaint System

If a solution can't be found for a problem or concern with the management at a production facility, workers can contact the local Fair Wear complaint helpline and file a grievance regarding working conditions or human rights abuses.

Local contact for complaints

The factory based complaint system is inadequate at many production sites. Therefore, it is very important to us that workers have the opportunity to contact a neutral entity – the Fair Wear complaint helpline. Complaints may either be made anonymously or personal identifying information can be included. The complaint offices are supervised by local Fair Wear employees who speak the same language as the workers, are in the same time zone and come from the same culture. This is crucial for building trust.

Once VAUDE learns of a complaint, it is immediately addressed following the Fair Wear guidelines. Fair Wear forwards the issue to us and we are obligated to resolve it together with our producers. In turn, we report our resolutions measures to Fair Wear who then checks whether the complaint was adequately resolved and then publishes the report on its website. Read more here

Complaint system contact data

Every production site is obliged to post Fair Wear’s complaint system contact information for its workers in a public place. This is checked regularly by Fair Wear employees and our own CSR employee on-site.

Raising awareness of the complaint system

All of our production sites in China, Vietnam and Myanmar have already participated in the Fair Wear Workplace Education Training program (WEP). More here

One component of the WEP training is the complaint system. The complaint system is explained to workers as well as to the management and contact information is distributed on small cards. The focus is also on internal communication between workers and management and factory-based complaint systems. The goal is to solve problems within the factory and to resort to the Fair Wear complaint system only when additional help is needed.

Complaints in 2020

VAUDE received twelve complaints from the Fair Wear complaint system in 2020. These complaints are published on the Fair Wear website and you can find them here

The complaint system process is illustrated with the following example of an actual complaint that we received.

The complaint originated from a production facility in Myanmar and was received by FW as complaint number 939 on September 18, 2020. It concerns the labor standards Health and Safety and Legal Employment.

Original demand

To protect employees from COVID-19, the factory introduced a rule that as soon as an employee missed a day of work, 14 days of unpaid leave were automatically imposed. Worker representatives tried to negotiate with the factory management, but they couldn’t get the decision reversed. This measure could have actually increased the risk of spreading COVID-19, as employees who were suffering from COVID-19 symptoms but who didn’t have a fever would be inclined to continue coming to work because they couldn’t afford to take 14 days of unpaid leave, which is almost half of their salary.

Overview of the complaint handling process

September 23, 2020 Conclusion of the investigation
VAUDE contacted the factory and learned that the rule was made in consultation with employee representatives and then communicated to employees. Initially, however, discussion about the new rule was no longer relevant, as the city of Yangon underwent a lockdown for 14 days from September 24 - October 7, 2020, closing off the entire city.

October 2, 2020 Remediation of the complaint.
After consultation on the relevant COVID-19 regulations with Fair Wear, VAUDE contacted the factory management again and asked them to reconsider the new rule and follow the instructions of the local Ministry of Health. Due to the discussion, it also came to light that the factory was participating in Germany’s GIZ program for the prevention and management of infectious diseases.

October 12, 2020 Remediation of the complaint.
After consulting with their lawyers, the factory management said that the new rule had been repealed before the September lockdown. In addition, high-risk groups - such as pregnant workers - were being specifically taken care of within the factory by granting them paid leave if they could not come to work.

October 13, 2020 Complaint Evaluation
After verification by Fair Wear, the complainant confirmed that the factory had repealed the rule and informed its employees. The complainant was satisfied with the remedial action and the complaint was resolved.

"We see the fact that the number of complaints increased as a positive sign. It means that our training program is effective, workers feel safe enough to protest and have confidence in the system. This is the only way to make progress and to ensure enduring improvement of working conditions.”

Antje von Dewitz, VAUDE CEO

This system is effective in addressing complaints about working conditions and human rights violations at our production facilities. We are working to establish a similar complaints system for environmental issues such as when chemicals are handled improperly or waste is not disposed of properly. In addition, we would like to make these complaint systems available not only to our producers, but also to their suppliers who produce materials for VAUDE products. We are currently searching for partners: other brands to operate the systems jointly with us and/or organizations that maintain a system such as this that our suppliers’ employees could use.

GRI:   103-2
The management approach and its components
GRI:   103
Management Approach
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