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Asos to Share Key Sourcing Secrets

Asos is upping the ante on its supply chain transparency initiatives.

The U.K.-based e-tailer will publish a list of all approved and mapped factories by March 31, 2017. The goal, according to the company, is to help protect individuals impacted by Asos operations, including customers, local communities, employees and stock and non-stock supply chain workers.

In its Modern Slavery Statement for 2015/16, Asos also proposed new ethical sourcing commitments for 2017, including working to prevent modern slavery risks continuing to support labor rights for workers.

Asos’ supply chain is currently divided into two separate categories. The first covers Asos brand products and third-party brands’ products that are for re-sale on the website. Non-stock items and services, including customer care and logistics, make up the second area of Asos’ supply chain. Asos brand supplier factories are also broken down into five tiers, including main production sites (Tier 1), primary processes subcontractors (Tier 2), secondary process subcontractors (Tier 3), fabric and components (Tier 4) and raw materials (Tier 5).

The company sells more than 850 third-party brands on its site and each of those sellers are regularly required to report their environmental and human rights policies. With the release of the supplier list, Asos will be able to foster visibility in its supply chains and assist third party brands in their ethical sourcing initiatives. Further, in addition to the supplier list release, Asos is currently developing an in-house team within its sourcing department to help these brands boost their sustainability and ethics performance.

Through its due diligence processes, including governance, risk assessment and an Ethical Trade Programme, Asos also identified potential modern slavery risks in its supply chain, including migrant labor, refugee labor, child labor, contract and agency workers, women workers and outsourced HR functions. Along with each risk, Asos discussed new commitments for 2017 that will assess gaps present in its supply chain.

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To avoid migrant labor, Asos will develop pre-departure training and an action plan to address potential worker exploitation in the migrant worker recruitment process. In addition to expanding its risk assessments, Asos will engage with key trade union stakeholders in Mauritius to prevent modern slavery in its supply chain there.

Refugee labor remains a prominent issue for many European companies, including Asos, that may have refugee workers involved in its supply chains. Asos is currently participating in the ETI Turkey Working Group to protect refugee workers and ensure legal employment at its production centers.

Although Asos currently conducts risk assessments of all its facilities, the company plans to visit lower tier sites more frequently—particularly those involved in fabric and raw materials—where there could be a higher risk for child labor. Women workers also remain at risk for modern slavery and Asos said it will pilot a gender empowerment program to provide training for its female supply chain workers in Turkey.

Asos also addressed outsourced HR function issues that could contribute to modern slavery. Today, India and the U.K. remain the highest risk countries for modern slavery and Asos is carrying out new commitments this year to protect workers in both nations. For suppliers and contract workers in India, the company is developing a Fair Hiring Toolkit to ensure an ethical employment process.

On a global scale, Asos is also requiring non-stock workers to comply with the its Supplier Ethical Code, Child Labor Policy and Asos Migrant and Contract Worker Policy for 2017. The company will also develop a progression and reward strategy this year, which it expects to foster better sustainability and ethics among its key international suppliers.