The majority of workers who manufacture products for ANN INC., the parent company of Ann Taylor and LOFT, are women. ANN INC. announced in March 2014 that it will directly impact 100,000 women through a strategic partnership with BSR on their HEProject program, and became the first US-based women's retailer to sign on to the UN Women Empowerment Principles.
To expand on how ANN INC. will achieve this goal, the company commits a .5 million investment to achieve its desired impacts on 100,000 Women in its global supply chain and launch a 4th program pillar entitled: 'Enabling a Supply Chain Supporting Women,' designed to empower strategic suppliers to create workplace conditions in which women in manufacturing can achieve their potential, and implement workplace programs that support women workers, both as employees and as people. To support the supply chain pillar, the way that ANN selects, evaluates and engages supplier partners is going to drive a greater focus on gender and measurement of impacts on women.
This new program pillar will include: implementing a new vendor code of conduct, known as the Global Supplier Principles & Guidelines, to encourage suppliers to provide supportive workplaces for all workers, including women; engaging with strategic suppliers to increase investments in their management systems and employee benefit packages to effectively support needs of female employees; building the capacity of suppliers to measure and collect the data they need to better serve their female employees, and help ANN measure the impact of the commitment; investing in supplier capacity building to introduce the HERproject programs for the first time in key sourcing regions, specifically the Philippines; investing in capacity building of an NGO partner in India to enable women in artisan communities in remote regions of the Himalayas to obtain the HERhealth training; and raising consumer awareness of women's empowerment in the global manufacturing sector by connecting the commitment to its clients. ANN will leverage channels such as its website, social media, and stores to communicate the 100,000 Women Program and share the stories of the women impacted by the investments.
ANN believes its leadership through the launch of a new supplier code of conduct with a gender lens will not only contribute to the overall well-being of female workers in its supply chain, but will also support the development of an ecosystem that empowers women, in turn creating a 'new normal' for suppliers globally. ANN's investments also have the potential to indirectly impact many more women, families and communities.
Track 1: Defining Leadership and Building Capacity with Strategic Suppliers
May 2014: Conduct Supplier Workshop to engage ANN's top tier suppliers and define program leadership models.
September 2014: Conduct Supplier Workshop with ANN's strategic suppliers providing over 70% of its apparel to finalize program KPIs and review validation activities.
Track 2: Launch of Code of Conduct
Fall 2014: Launch updated Global Supplier Principles & Guidelines with new gender focus incorporated.
Track 3: HERNetwork for Suppliers Program Launch in Philippines
Fall 2014: Launch HERNetwork for Suppliers, introducing the HERProject curriculum in the Philippines.
Track 4: HERNetwork for Artisan Suppliers in India
Fall 2014: Launch HERNetwork for cooperative in India supplying artisan products from the Indian Himalayas.
Women and girls around the world experience greater health complications and lower financial literacy than their male counterparts. More than half the estimated 33 million people living with HIV/AIDS are women, more than 200 million women have an unmet need for contraception, and pregnancy and childbirth complications are the leading cause of death and disability for young women globally. 500,000 women die each year due to complications associated with pregnancy and childbirth (World Bank, 2005).
In 2006, BSR published a groundbreaking study <http://herproject.org/downloads/BSR-Womens-Health-Report-2006.pdf>, which documented the health vulnerabilities of female factory workers in Asia (Business for Social Responsibility, 2006). These women, many young and undereducated migrants who moved from rural areas to cities for jobs, were found to be suffering from anemia, poor hygiene, inadequate pre- and post-natal care, sexual violence, and exposure to infections and illness, including sexually transmitted and other preventable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B and C, and tuberculosis.
In addition to these significant health needs, women often suffer from lower financial literacy than men. Baseline findings from BSR's HERfinance indicated strong need for financial literacy interventions amount worker poor women - for example, 51% of women say they hand their salary over to someone else to manage, compared to just 7% of men; 62% of women say they need help using an ATM compared to 11% of men; and few women and men (15% and 14% respectively) report that they feel comfortable that they will meet their family's expected future expenses in the next two years.
In factories throughout Asia, young women work to support the livelihoods of their families in global supply chains of North American companies. The workplace setting presents an efficient and largely underutilized entry point for building health and rights knowledge as well as financial literacy.