Dialogue instead of policing

Instead of policing non-compliances , WE focuses on creating motivation for change through establishing trust and building effective dialogue between retailers and their suppliers, as well as within the production facilities. 

To ensure permanent implementation of fair working conditions, the WE approach facilitates dialogue between all relevant parties and provides the necessary know-how on social standards. The approach is based on the following pillars: 

Building on current best practices: WE builds on existing best practice approaches to implement social standards and aims to strengthen their effectiveness where they have encountered barriers. A prototype of the dialogue approach was successfully piloted in projects in Romania and Bulgaria in 2005/2006, involving GIZ and a group of German companies, non-governmental organisations and trade unions. The project was developed within the context of the "Runder Tisch Verhaltenskodizes" (Round Table on Codes of Conduct) which is supported by BMZ. The Round Table is a German multi-stakeholder forum comprising representatives from German federal ministries, GIZ, companies, NGOs and trade unions.

Dialogue as a key to success: Dialogue is a catalyst for working together in partnership: Managers and workers from the production facilities jointly develop solutions to improve working conditions. Wherever possible, workers’ representatives take upon the role to represent worker interests. Gradually, cultural, organisational and other barriers to improving social standards are identified and overcome through well-directed facilitation and mediation. The dialogue approach increases the likelihood that the agreed measures are implemented as they are accepted both by the management as well as the workers. The local trainers take upon the key role to build the dialogue skills of the participants, as a solution-oriented process requires a high level of sensitivity and self-reflection. >> more on the dialogue approach

Local trainers building bridges: A core element of WE are local trainers, who facilitate the dialogue processes on the ground in the factories. Native trainers are familiar with the local culture and speak the same language as workers and managers. Therefore, they are able to establish better and more trusting relationships. Since they are able to offer consultancy services both on an ongoing basis and at local cost, the framework conditions exist for a continuous scaling up of the WE approach. Other companies can access the trainer network and benefit from the trainers' know-how and experience. The trainers were trained in an intensive training-of-trainers in the pilot phase. This module was financed by the GIZ. Today, Tchibo carries on this work.

Buyers at the table: WE also offers a platform for exchange between trading companies and suppliers. Direct contact outside of commercial settings raises awareness among buyers, quality personnel and product developers on how their decisions affect the implementation of social standards at the factory level. One example: Short-term changes to design specifications or order quantity may reduce the suppliers' time available for production. Depending on the manufacturers’ overall capacity, less production time can result in excessive overtime for workers – a consequence which is not in the interest of brands and retailers, either.

Involving other relevant actors: Further actors that are key to implementing social standards are also involved, e.g. NGOs as well as representatives of Chambers of Commerce and business associations. Stakeholder dialogue meetings were held in all three pilot countries China, Bangladesh and Thailand in 2009/2010, involving government representatives, the private sector, civil society and trade unions, amongst others. In these fora the project concept as well as key challenges and potential solutions to implementing social standards were extensively discussed. The insights were used to further enrich the WE approach for the roll-out.