‘The challenge is how to measure and then implement it [a living wage]. Until there is a universally agreed alternative, we rely on a solid benchmark specified by an ILO Convention and that is the minimum wage set by law in the appropriate country or local industry benchmark standards.
However, Arcadia does provide information on a number of other programmes the company is working on to move towards the payment of living wages. These include joining the ACT joint industry initiative to help improve collective bargaining in sourcing countries in the hope that this will increase wage levels for factory workers across the board, in situations where their factories are producing for a number of different brands.
Arcadia told us in an email dated 14 October 2011:
‘We don't issue a list of our suppliers.’
Whereas other brands have since changed their position on this issue, there is still no factory address list on Arcadia’s website.
Arcadia’s 2016 Responsibility Report states:
‘Our ethical audit programme requires suppliers to submit third party audits, dated within 12 months, for all new and existing factories’.
The company’s website also notes:
‘Our trained employees visit factories on a regular basis. Among other things, they will be looking for violations of our code of conduct or issues raised during an audit which have yet to be resolved’.
Part 1 of Arcadia’s Code of Conduct Guidebook states that audits should be ‘conducted on a semi announced or unannounced basis’. Page 9 of the same document also mentions that audits include interviews with factory workers.
Arcadia Group’s 2016 Responsibility Report provides some very high-level information on the company’s recent auditing data, but little detail is provided to allow us to understand how their factories are really performing.
We asked Arcadia about this, but, in an email dated 21 March 2012, they said only:
‘Unfortunately we cannot respond in detail to all enquires regarding our ethical trading programme.’
We told Arcadia in an email dated 22 March 2012 that we would therefore have to assume that they do not have such a mechanism in place, unless they could inform us to the contrary. We heard nothing back and sent a further email on 12 April 2012 to confirm that they still had nothing further to add. Arcadia again did not respond.
Arcadia does not yet appear to be conducting check s further down its supply chain itself but it is placing a responsibility on its own suppliers to ensure that those further down the supply chain comply with the company’s Code of Conduct. Appendix 1 of Part One of Arcadia’s Code of Conduct Guidebookinstructs suppliers:
‘Please retain evidence that the Arcadia Group CoC is applied to throughout your supply chain. This includes sub-contractors and any units in which Arcadia Brands’ labels are visible, such as packaging manufacturers, laundries, textile printers and warehouses.’
Arcadia’s website describes the company’s commitment to the Sustainable Clothing Action Plan (SCAP). One of the SCAP’s major initiatives is the Love Your Clothes campaign. Both are initiatives organised by the charity, WRAP. The goal of the former is described on WRAP’s website:
‘SCAP’s ambition is to improve the sustainability of clothing across its lifecycle. By bringing together industry, government and the third sector we aim to reduce resource use and secure recognition for corporate performance by developing sector-wide targets.’
The latter is a scheme which aims to ‘help change the way the UK consumers buy, use and dispose of their clothing’ and to ‘reduce the environmental impact of clothing across the UK and influence a more circular approach to clothing globally’ (Love Your Clothes website).
Arcadia’s website also describes how it’s brand Topshop has a collection made ‘entirely from beautiful fabrics that were left over from previous collections’ and how the company is also trialling the use of recycled wool in menswear.
Arcadia’s website notes that the company has become a member of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI). It reports that the ‘aim is to increase the flow of Better Cotton over conventional cotton, tracing the fibre through the production process’ and that ‘five of our brands are now sourcing Better Cotton and have helped us surpass our first year’s target by almost double’.
Arcadia’s website lists several environmental programmes the company is working on but there is nothing specifically focussed on eliminating the discharge of toxic chemicals into water supplies during clothing production.