TFG Brands London, a fashion group which owns brands including Hobbs and Whistles, has signed a first-of-its-kind agreement with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) to co-operate on preventing, mitigating and addressing human rights risks for transport workers in its supply chain.
TFG is an online and retail fashion group comprising Hobbs, Whistles, Phase Eight and Inside Story. It is the first fashion retailer to partner with ITF, to cooperate on attempts to eradicate labour rights abuses from its entire supply chain – including shipping, freight, and warehouse workers.
Many fashion companies are making sustainability commitments, but labour violations and worker exploitation in the supply chain are often facilitated by subcontractors that fly under the radar of typical corporate due diligence structures. According to a recent investigation, freight subcontractors in Europe exploited a lack of checks and controls during the pandemic, resulting in many drivers being paid as little as €100-600 per month for weeks full of 48-hour non-stop shifts.
Negligence in accurately assessing a supply chain for human rights due diligence leaves companies vulnerable to financial and reputational damage, as a commitment to ethical working practices is the third most important suitability factor to consumers.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between TFG and ITF will see both parties work together to examine labour rights risks across all directly operated and subcontracted transportation operations by TFG, and respond in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and ITF’s Supply Chain Principles.
TFG has also committed to meaningfully engage with the union throughout the entire transport-related human rights due diligence process, and the MOU establishes a technical working group with ITF.
The impact assessment done by ITF as part of the MOU provides TFG with a more accurate picture of its supply chain, and especially its transport workers’ working conditions. ITF conducts quantitative on-the-ground analysis, speaking to workers across the supply chain about their lived experiences.
Governments are increasing their scrutiny of exploitation in the supply chain. In 2021, Germany passed the Supply Chain Due Diligence Act and Norway, the Netherlands, and France also have similar laws. The EU is deliberating over an even more robust Supply Chain Law, that was introduced in February 2022.
TFG has already implemented heightened standards for working conditions across its supply chain. Throughout Covid-19, TFG ensured that seafarers aboard vessels that moved their goods were able to crew change safely in line with their contracts. TFG led in this approach, at a time when some crews found themselves trapped on board vessels for over 24 months, as much as 15 months over contract.
Steve Cotton, General Secretary of ITF commented: