Stronger Together: A note from James and the Outland Denim team
Although the outbreak of Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 has caused so much devastation and disruption across the world, we remain hopeful. We have all witnessed so many community minded moments of generosity and compassion. Our thoughts are with those who are suffering, and we want to acknowledge all those who are working tirelessly to slow the spread of the virus and those who are putting themselves in harm's way to care for those affected. Thank you!
We are committed to ensuring the well-being of all workers within our operations and supply chain and aim to establish and encourage best practice through our approach and commitment to creating positive social outcomes, particularly for the most vulnerable.
To this end, we have implemented a three-pronged approach to our COVID-19 response, encapsulating our Australian headquarters, Cambodian operations, and also the people further down our supply chain.
While recognising our unique position in owning and managing our own first-tier manufacturing facilities, we have endeavoured to demonstrate a commitment to our entire supply chain through our COVID-19 response.
Like other fashion businesses, we had to pivot quickly to adapt to the new social and economic reality presented by COVID-19. Still, we have been unwavering in our commitment to our staff in Cambodia.
Many of our Australian staff, including senior management, chose to salary sacrifice while self-isolating to help our company weather the immediate economic effects of a decline in wholesale orders, preferring that our Cambodian colleagues continue to be paid while on leave.
The commitment level and generosity of our Australian staff has been remarkable, but when you run a purpose-driven brand, you attract purpose-driven people who naturally will put the higher vision above their personal comfort levels.
Our Australian staff will be beneficiaries of the Australian Government’s generous AU$130 billion JobKeeper scheme, which comes into effect this month and extends until September 2020. Expenses such as travel, accommodation and sundries (national and international), campaign shoots and events have been removed or suspended for the next six months.
First-tier factories, Cambodia
We commenced our formal response to COVID-19 in its first tier, vertically integrated facilities in Cambodia in early March. This included health training for all employees by our on-site nurse, the positioning of sanitiser stations outside facilities for staff use, and the distribution of facemasks to all staff.
Our internal Health and Safety Committee was given the responsibility of monitoring the team and positioning educational posters around the facility. The on-site nurse initiated the taking of temperature of each staff member before entering the facility while Management implemented the criteria set out by the Cambodian Ministry of Labour for all garment industry facilities to follow.
Our Outland Denim management in Cambodia received COVID-19 training through Better Factories Cambodia (ILO) and the Garment Manufacturing Association of Cambodia (GMAC).
After consultation with local industry bodies and the Cambodian leadership team, we decided to temporarily close our Wash and Finish and Cut and Sew facilities on March 23 and 25, respectively to play a part in slowing the spread of the virus and reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus in the workplace.
The temporary closures would also allow mothers to be able to care for children who were no longer able to attend school due to COVID-19 closures. Information around hygiene for children at home and the importance of isolating was provided to the team.
Employees have continued to receive financial support while at home. This has included 70% of their base salary plus benefits; maternity and severance payments are also included. Notably, our Cambodian staff receive living wages in addition to resilience-building education in healthcare and financial literacy.
A small sampling team returned to work at Outland Denim on 20th April, and several other key employees recommenced work on 2nd May 2020, to assist with finalising samples while observing social distancing and hygiene practises as outlined by BFC.
We will continue to monitor the situation in Cambodia and seek the advice of BFC and GMAC as we make plans to accommodate our Cambodian staff. We are hopeful that our two facilities will officially re-open to the full team on the 18th May 2020 to continue production.
With the help of generous individuals in our Australian home town, we have made provisions for sanitizer, masks, and vitamin C to be sent home to each employee household.
Beyond the first tier
As part of our wider COVID-19 response and social equity mandate, we also initiated a communications and engagement program in partnership with Sydney-based Precision Solutions Group (PSG) designed to reach the earliest stages of our supply chain: the suppliers of raw materials and cotton farmers.
Through this partnership, COVID-19 health information will be distributed through various channels (including radio, print, social media and online), in multiple languages, with a focus primarily on seasonal workers and their families, local labour organisations and human rights groups, and the general public.
“We are passionate to ensure these life-saving communications and engagement programs reach all stakeholders and extend to the most vulnerable people groups that may make up parts of the supply chain,” Social and Environmental Impact Manager Leisl Lancaster.
“Rather than pulling away during a crisis, Outland Denim strongly believes that brands and businesses need to lean in and engage with as many individuals connected to the creation of its products as possible.”
The main aims of the communications program, which rolls out from 15th May, are to ensure accurate health information is reaching people in the supply chain (and wider), that misinformation is combatted, and that trust is built through engagement with these valued people.
The program is designed to provide health-related education and support; identify where issues are occurring, and focus remediation efforts accordingly, and to increase worker safety and protection in the earliest stages of the supply chain.
We believe it’s vital to take a proactive approach and prepare for the after-effect of COVID-19 on people and industry, this program will play a part in preserving and strengthening the agricultural and textile industry in the areas it reaches.
“It is an absolute privilege to be working with Outland Denim,” said Richard Williams, Managing Director of PSG. “Their commitment to ensuring the well-being of everyone in their supply chain at a time when workers are most vulnerable and reliant on business support has set the standard for the industry.”
The cotton farming sector dominates employment within the fashion and textile industry, which is estimated to employ one in eight working people around the globe. This includes workers farming crops for raw materials, processing raw materials into yarn, dyeing/treating, cutting/sewing, finishing and logistics work, among others. The ILO estimates that the cotton farming sector employs 350 million people worldwide.
Currently, the Outland Denim/PSG communications program will be implemented in Turkey, with the support of PSG and our primary raw material suppliers, Bossa, Akasya, and Agrona. The vision is to further develop and expand on the program with like-minded partners, for an even wider and more substantial positive impact.
Open For Business (online)
We are pleased to continue offering online shopping and fast shipping. Our Customer Service team look forward to helping you find the perfect pair of Outland Denims and are available to assist you via Facebook messenger, Instagram, or email email@example.com.
We want to thank all those who have continued to buy our products through any of our marketplace retailers or online.