Next does not provide evidence that it has calculated living wage levels in supplier countries and is ensuring that it is paying factories enough for wages at this level to be paid to workers. However, Next is involved in a number of programmes which are helping to address the issue of wages and help workers to receive better pay. The company’s website describes some of these initatives:
‘Next is a member of the Better Work programme initially in Cambodia, with the longer term intention to extend its membership into further countries where programmes are active. Better Work is a partnership programme between the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC). Better Work has activities in nine countries worldwide and many global brands are now members.
‘During 2015, Next continued to contribute to the ACT (Action Collaboration and Transformation) programme, whose aims are to improve workers’ conditions, support processes to establish fair wages and assure mature industrial relations in the garment industry. Within the ACT programme, Next is a signatory working alongside 18 partner Brands and IndustriAll (Trade Union), to deliver sustainable improvements in working conditions and training in factories supplying our products…
‘During 2015 Next continued to develop and extend our programme to support and protect vulnerable homeworkers both in New Delhi, India and also within Sri Lanka…Focusing on protection, improvement and investment, the objective is to maximise the earning potential, health and lifestyle of the homeworkers and their families by protecting homeworkers earnings: Next has developed and installed a simple process which allows homeworkers to reconcile the work they have undertaken and the wages they receive through passbooks and dockets to assist in preventing the issue of them being underpaid for the work they complete.’
Next told us in an email dated 19 October 2011:
‘As a company we have to maintain confidentiality with our suppliers and we work hard to establish direct relationships and build trust with our factories. It would not be appropriate to share details of our supply base due to commercial sensitivities.’
Next confirmed in an email dated 21 October 2014 that this situation is unchanged and there is still no factory list published on Next’s website.
P.10 of Next’s Corporate Responsibility Report to January 2016 states:
‘Our auditing programme delivers assurance that our suppliers understand their responsibility to comply with our ethical standards. Our factory audits, which are predominantly un-announced, are carried out by our own team of Next auditors, which means we can continue to develop a direct relationship with our suppliers and their factories. We are able to fully explain our requirements, the audit process, the factory rating system and the need for honesty and transparency from the factory management. During the audit process we engage with the factory management, interview workers, review employment records as well as visually assessing working conditions and health and safety standards.’
P.10 of Next’s Corporate Responsibility Report to January 2016 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.
Next’s CR Focus Points document for 2016 states:
‘In China, Next has continued to partner with and support INNO, an NGO, who develop and manage worker helplines and provide help and advice for workers in our supply chain to be able to report workplace concerns. In 2015, over 100 calls were received from workers typically looking for advice relating to social issues.’
However, there is no evidence that Next’s worker helplines extend beyond China.
P.9 of Next’s Corporate Responsibility Report to January 2016 states:
‘We have continued to undertake audits on the 2nd tier factories our suppliers and their factories are using to improve the transparency of our supply chain.’
Next is a signatory 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).
Next’s CR Focus Points document for 2016 states that the company has joined the Better Cotton Initiative but does not yet state how much sustainable cotton the company is currently using:
‘In 2015 we joined Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) as this helps support our aim of improving the traceability of cotton, our main raw material. BCI aims to promote methods of cotton production which minimise the negative impact of fertilizers and pesticides, use less water and protect soil health and natural habitats. BCI farmers achieve better yields and more financial security through access to global markets, whilst improving the working conditions in their fields. Next are proud to support BCI aiming to create a better future for cotton-farming communities.’
P.13 of Next’s Corporate Responsibility Report to January 2016 states:
‘Next have strict Restricted Substance Standards (RSS) which state the limits for harmful chemicals used in or during the manufacture of our products’.
However, the company does not provide evidence of a time-specific commitment to eliminate the use of all toxic chemicals in its supply chain and any subsequent discharge into water supplies.