Workers' Rights

Looking after people is the most important thing we can do.

We’re committed to protecting human rights and proactively improving conditions for workers throughout our supply chain. To achieve this, we’ve evolved our approach to focus on transparency and partnership.

Human rights is not something we reluctantly feel obligated to consider as a necessary business risk. It’s our number one material issue reflecting the very heart of our values and brand.

Xavier Simonet, CEO Kathmandu

Recent Developments:

Achieving Fair Labour Accreditation

In June 2018, Kathmandu became the first brand in the Southern Hemisphere to become accredited by the Fair Labour Association (FLA).

What does this mean for workers? The FLA audits and verifies our social compliance program to ensure that we are promoting and complying with international labour standards throughout our supply chain. Our efforts are independently verified and assessed on the basis of fulfilling all of the principles of fair labour and responsible sourcing.

The FLA have already completed many social compliance initiatives and assessments at several of our factories. Their reports on Kathmandu facilities can be read on the FLA website.

The FLA also offers tools and resources to help companies better protect and empower their workers — including training to factory workers and management. The FLA works with companies to advocates for greater accountability and transparency throughout global supply chains.

Our goal is to set the standard for companies in Australia and New Zealand to champion workers’ rights, safety and empowerment.

Improving our score in the Ethical Fashion Guide

Kathmandu has previously participated in the Australian Ethical Fashion Report produced by Baptist World Aid. Tearfund New Zealand are now partnering with Baptist World Aid to include more New Zealand companies.

The 2018 Tearfund Ethical Fashion Guide scored 114 companies (407 brands) on the levels of visibility and transparency across their supply chain with regards to worker rights, policies, and practices. Of the 114 companies assessed, the median grade is C+.

Kathmandu scored an A, improving on our score of a B+ in 2017.

  • A big improvement for us this year is the transparency that comes with publishing our supplier list (below) so you know where our products are made.

  • The guide also highlighted Kathmandu as a leader in tracing raw materials — 80% of our cotton and 100% of our down .

The tracing of raw materials remains a significant challenge across the industry with just 7% of companies knowing where all their raw materials come from.

Collaboration is key to success. We partner with some of the biggest outdoor brands in the world to share our collective experiences and practices so we can continue to improve as a whole.

Smiling factory team member holding sign saying
During the Fashion Revolution we asked our factory team to show behind the scenes footage of our supply chain

Our Responsibility

In many countries the laws that protect and empower workers are not adequate or simply not enforced. As a result, it’s critical for us to communicate the standards we expect of our suppliers, and to have a system in place to make sure those standards are met.

We aim to work in partnership with our suppliers to facilitate ongoing improvement that benefits both their workers and their business performance. These are just some of the measures we have in place:

A robust workplace code of conduct

Our Workplace Code of Conduct is based on the International Labour Organisation’s standards and on internationally accepted good labour practices.

The code outlines what we expect from our suppliers including working hours, safe working conditions and explains what sufficient compensation looks like. It also includes the environmental standards we expect suppliers to meet. All of our manufacturing partners must sign up to our Code of Conduct before we’ll do business with them.

Our comprehensive and ongoing social compliance program encourages greater adherence to our standards and encourages suppliers to take greater ownership of their own changes and improvements.

Factory team sewing a XT Series down jacket
Cutting fabric in a apparel factory

Putting our policies into practice

Our social compliance program aims to protect and enhance the human rights of the workers in our global supply chain. Our program is carefully designed to respond to the uniqueness of each culture, country and supplier.

This tailored approach is based upon a combination of risk and influence — the risk a particular supplier poses to their workers and ourselves, and the influence we have to effect change. The segmentation of our supply chain allows us to improve the capacity of our partners and the workplace conditions of our workers.

From our own factory audits and social compliance assessments, the most common challenges relate to health and safety, working hours, wage rates and social insurance.

The segmentation of our supply chain The segmentation of our supply chain
The segmentation of our supply chain

The global challenge

Until recently, factory audits were the tool we used to make sure suppliers were providing safe working conditions and fair pay to workers through our Code of Conduct. Audits are typically the main method that companies around the world use to measure conditions in their supply chain.

But over the course of several decades it is clear that, on their own, audits have limitations:

  • They can promote a game of cat and mouse between the auditors and the suppliers
  • The audit is not designed to identify or address the root causes of issues or prevent them from occurring again
  • Audits are not always able to unearth severe violations such as systemic corruption, sexual harassment, bullying and other forms of exploitation and abuse
  • When several companies sends auditors to the same facility, it can put further strain on the factories and can hamper progress.

Addressing the issues

Our greatest challenge is to understand how our suppliers see the world and how we can cooperate together to improve conditions for their workers. We believe with the right attitude and a willingness to learn and change, suppliers can rapidly improve their practices. We seek to:

Facilitate a better understanding.

It’s imperative we understand the culture and local laws of the country where our suppliers are based. Only then can we effectively seek greater compliance with their own laws, as well as with our own code of conduct and standards.

Collaborate in partnership with the apparel industry.

Kathmandu is a signatory to Social and Labour Convergence Project, an industry collaboration to create a standard assessment tool to minimise the strain on factories. Created by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, this is a great example which encourages and facilitate greater cooperation across the apparel industry.

We’re also working in partnership with other international brands to both share and conduct audits when they share our values and meet our standards.

A factory in China hand sewing products
A factory in China hand sewing products

Supply Chain Transparency

Transparency is not just one of our core values, it’s the cornerstone of responsible business conduct.

We believe that publishing supply chain information builds the trust of workers, consumers, labour advocates, and investors, and sends a strong message that we don’t fear accountability.

Kathmandu has published a list of Tier 1 suppliers and those factories making our products.

Tier 1 are our primary suppliers who hold a direct contractual sourcing relationship for the supply of Kathmandu branded products. The list includes the name of our suppliers, the name and address of the factories we utilise, the kind of product made there, and the number of employed workers.

The list of factories accounts for 100% of Kathmandu apparel, footwear, packs and bags, sleeping bags and tents, and represents approximately 90% of Kathmandu total spend.

The remaining list of Equipment and Accessory factories will be published in 2018.

Where our gear is made

Living wage vs. Minimum wage

Kathmandu has a robust factory assessment and monitoring program to ensure that those who make our gear are being paid the legally required minimum wage. While this is a very positive step in the right direction, we know that the majority of workers in our supply chain earn less than what we would consider a fair living wage relative to their country. We therefore want to go further and do more to ensure that those wages are enough to afford a decent standard of living.

A living wage is a fair and decent wage, given the country, region and community where the workers live. A living wage covers the basic necessities for life in the form of food, water, housing, healthcare, education, clothing, transportation and childcare.

There are as many different definitions of what constitutes a living wage as there are organisations trying to deliver one and there is no universal living-wage calculator. There is also not a fair and effective means to translate what constitutes a living wage in one country to another.

Governments, businesses and the non-profit sector have been working hard for many years to regulate working conditions and worker hours, raise minimum wages and identify sustainable solutions for getting workers out of poverty. Despite this many workers within the wider apparel industry remain vulnerable to unfair wages, heavy workloads and various forms of exploitation and abuse.

Partnership and Collaboration

Like most of the human rights challenges in our supply chain, Kathmandu cannot facilitate the positive changes we would like to see in the world by acting alone and in isolation. Instead we have chosen to work collaboratively with other global brands and in partnership with the Fair Labor Association (FLA).

The FLA is collecting wage data worldwide and as an FLA accredited business, Kathmandu is participating in this process, compiling such data from some of our Strategic and Core Suppliers. This data is being collated by the FLA to establish living wage benchmarks against which we can then compare our own wage levels and publically report on our progress. We will use this information to make better supplier decisions and partner with factories that are committed to our goal to provide a living wage to all workers making our products.

Kathmandu exists to inspire travel and adventure in everyone – which includes those working in our supply chain. We don’t have all the answers when it comes to implementing a living wage. But we do know that conducting good business is an essential part of the journey toward empowering all people and influencing positive social change.

How we measure performance

To measure our performance on human rights in the supply chain, we’re now using the ground-breaking self-assessment tool, the HIGG Index. We’ve assessed our work using the detailed questionnaire in the HIGG’s Social/Labour Management Performance Module. This scoring criteria will reinforce the most important areas for us to focus on in the 2017 financial year.

If you have suggestions or feedback on improving worker’s rights, please contact our Corporate Social Responsibility team.