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FDRA Releases Footwear Production Code of Conduct

The Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) released a comprehensive Footwear Production Code of Conduct designed to establish a common, baseline code that will help drive uniformity within the footwear industry.

FDRA’s 20-page guide, available in English and Chinese, touches on a number of topics from working hours and overtime, to structural safety and transparency.

Matt Priest, FDRA president, said, “The code of conduct establishes a common denominator among companies in the industry–large and small–and sets a standard that encourages discussion for social compliance.” He added, “We wanted to develop one that the industry could use open source–allow small companies who don’t have one, a chance to adopt ours, and allow big companies who might want to update their codes to see what others are doing.”

In June last year, the FDRA’s Factory Enhancement and Sourcing Committee, a group of the industry’s leading sourcing executives from both distributors and retailers, began to gather and analyze the core values underlined in several dozen codes of conduct from companies in all regions of the world. FDRA’s social compliance working group and the industry as a whole also weighed in.

With the exception of some wording differences, Priest said the committee found a striking amount of similarities in each of the guidelines. “The prevailing standard is continuous improvement,” Priest noted. “No one factory is perfect across the board, no matter where it is based. We know not everything is going to be perfect, so we’re saying let’s work together on a solution and strive for change in the supply chain,” he explained.

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One common issue the committee heavily focused on was working hours–a problem Priest described as, “unique to the footwear industry’s seasonal work flow.” The code notes that factories are expected not to exceed 60 working hours in a given week, and provide one day off for every seven-day period. However, the FDRA conditionally accepts more than 60 hours in a week in the peak season as long as the production unit complies with supplemental requirements, including work days that do not exceed 12 hours, guaranteed days off, a peak season limited to no more than four months, and that workers are compensated for regular and overtime hours in accordance with the law.

The FDRA has begun an series of information sessions to promote the code, including two events in China and a webinar. The code will be translated for Vietnamese factories next. “We have to get them [factories] to understand these concepts,” Priest said. “For decades now we have a strong coalition to work with factories and tell them what works in the U.S. and what doesn’t. We think the Footwear Production Code of Conduct will better inform them.”

Priest said that the organization is also in the process of developing a field program to recognize companies that adhere to the code. “We’re going to beat this drum,” he quipped, adding, “It will take some time. It’s a grassroots effort, but over time we hope companies will adopt it fully, or use it to supplement their own code.”