VAUDE has a longstanding partner with whom we have been manufacturing a number of your VAUDE products in Myanmar. This is in a production facility owned by a Taiwanese partner that we have been working closely with for many years.
In addition, since 2019 we have been working with another Taiwanese partner which manufactures our products in two of its production facilities in Myanmar.
We are aware of the risks associated with Myanmar and make significant efforts to ensure that the production facilities meet our high standards. One example is a training project that we implemented in Myanmar that won honors from Fair Wear.
We have full transparency throughout the production facilities and are familiar with the working conditions there. Our partners are also highly committed to improving working conditions and see it as part of their responsibility towards their employees.
Our partner had already started production in Myanmar in 1999 – at the time mainly for the American market. After the USA embargo in 2003, many of our partner’s customers canceled their orders so the producer asked us whether we could move some production to Myanmar. Due to the embargo, our partner’s Myanmar production site was facing closure and badly needed new customers. In order to maintain jobs there, VAUDE decided to expand its production to Myanmar in 2003. Since then, we have manufactured a small selection of products in this factory.
We condemn the military coup of February 1, 2021 and support the people of Myanmar in their peaceful protest against the arrests of the de-facto head of government Aung San Suu Kyi and other leading politicians. Military violence against the people of Myanmar must end and all political prisoners must be released. You can read more about this here.
We are in close contact with all of our production partners and are receiving regular updates on the local situation. We work with three manufacturers in Myanmar and are in close contact with the factory directly and also with the head office. Our CSR staff and Quality control staff regularly visit the factory. The textile industry is an important economic sector in Myanmar, which secures the income of many families. In order to preserve these jobs, we are committed to Myanmar as a location of production during the current crisis.
Our HRDD process complies with the OECD Due Diligence Guidelines. We have a very comprehensive risk analysis that assesses risks at both the country and factory level.
We fully support the fact that Fair Wear sets stricter requirements for production in Myanmar as there is a very high risk of labor standards being violated in this country. We are assessed annually by Fair Wear with a Brand Performance Check to ensure that we are meeting all requirements and living up to our responsibilities. All production sites in Myanmar were assessed regularly by Fair Wear until the military coup. After the coup, Fair Wear discontinued all on-site measures such as training, factory visits and audits. However, complaint hotlines were and are still available and incoming complaints are handled by the Burmese Fair Wear team. We are still able to work on the complaints and remediate the issues as in all other countries we are producing. Audits/assessments are still possible with other organizations such as SMART.
Based on external research and dialogue with various stakeholders, Fair Wear updated their business in Myanmar policy. Fair Wear member brands are expected to responsibly disengage from the country. Member brands may also submit a rationale for remaining engaged, demonstrating how they plan to adequately respect human rights through HRDD.
You can find the Fair Wear’s detailed expectations on production in Myanmar here.
At the moment we are drafting a detailed HRDD plan in cooperation with other Fair Wear member brands and Fair Wear to ensure that we fulfill the 8 points outlined in the guidance document.
We are working closely with our production partners and regularly evaluating the situation regarding the country as well as on manufacturer level. We continue to work with long-standing partners at full capacity for the most part. Therefore, we see it as our responsibility to maintain our relationships with these partners and thereby preserve valuable jobs. As poverty increases in the country, we see it as crucial that people have a job with a regular income. The assessments in the past years showed that the money is actually reaching the workers.
This means that we still believe that the best way to support the people in the country is to help secure jobs and thus the livelihood of the workers. VAUDE has therefore decided to remain in the country even after the reassessment of the situation by Fair Wear. Other organizations, such as the Clean Clothes Campaign, also support this position of solidarity with workers in Myanmar, when due diligence obligations can be demonstrably met.
Our basic due diligence process has not changed since the military coup. We have been working with SMART since 2015. Fair Wear was not yet active in the country at that time, and SMART had already established a grievance system in Myanmar, as well as conducted trainings and on-site inspections. SMART is an EU-funded project to improve labor and environmental standards in the textile industry in Myanmar. In December 2022, the EU-funded MADE project (The Multi-Stakeholder Alliance for Decent Employment), a long-term on-site program in which 200 factories are participating and through which at least 50,000 jobs are to be preserved in Myanmar, was launched with 3 million euros. The MADE project covers all aspects of social compliance, workplace audits and training, and complaint handling. SMART employees can also make in-person visits to the factories during the current crisis situation. All three factories that produce for us in Myanmar are participating in the MADE program. This has allowed us to contribute to the preservation of 3,500 jobs.