Sussan Group COVID-19 Website Statement – September 2020
We are all aware that the COVID-19 Pandemic has caused unprecedented upheaval to individuals, families, businesses, communities and governments across the world.
At the Sussan Group, we continue to do our best to ensure our business operates to support our entire team and of course, our customers. Our support extends to our suppliers and factory workers globally as we work through these times together. We know our response to the challenges we face will not be perfect, but our commitment to all who are so important to us is steadfast.
We are of course committed to caring for the health, safety and well-being of our team members and customers and ensuring we are complying with Federal and State based laws and government health guidelines. We have put in place a comprehensive program of precautionary measures in our stores, based on expert advice, to ensure a safe shopping experience for our customers and a safe workplace for our team.
Upon reopening after the temporary closure of our stores, each store received specific training to ensure our teams were fully across revised procedures for social distancing and the other necessary safeguards, including a regime of frequent, strict cleaning, the use of hand sanitiser, and appropriate signage. We also trained our staff in responding to customer questions about these measures.
We have installed perspex screens at our point of sale and are promoting contactless payment with our customers. Each of our stores have been provided with a COVID 19 Risk Management plan to assist with the ongoing management of any issues that may arise.
Team Members based in our offices have been given the option of flexible work, including working from home where possible. When working in the office for essential work, we have implemented staggered work schedules, social distancing, and additional safety and cleaning steps to help protect and support our team members.
For our Victorian workplaces, team members are required to wear face coverings in line with the recent Government Health & Human Services advice. This applies to all of our Victorian stores for both our team members and customers.
Our suppliers are always important to our business and we are mindful of the effects of the pandemic on them and their workers. To us, they are more than our suppliers - we believe they’re our partners, some of whom have been suppliers to the Sussan Group for over 20 years.
It’s important to us that we continue to support our suppliers by managing our existing and future orders to meet demand, while balancing our supply to ensure we do not overstock. We have continued to daily and weekly conversations with our suppliers, working to support our mutual ongoing success. Some discussions and decisions have been difficult for us all, but we continue to be open and transparent with our suppliers as we work through the daily challenges.
We have continued to protect workers’ rights by working with suppliers to ensure our social compliance (factory auditing) program remained in place where it could, or placed on hold where external auditors could not access closed factories. As soon as factories reopened, we restarted our compliance program and the management of corrective actions. We held weekly talks with our suppliers to ensure factory workers wages were paid according to the local government regulations, including during factory closures.
We recognise the power of collaboration and so took the opportunity to have open discussions with other brands on their pathway though these challenges, exchanging our ideas on how others have handled the crisis.
The Sussan Group has been a proud participant in the BWA Australian Fashion Report since 2014. Sourcing our products ethically has and will always be, at the core of what we do and we recognise our participation in the BWA Fashion Report has helped to guide us on the path to ensuring our products are appropriately sourced, in line with our values. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic, we decided not to participate in the reporting requirements for the 2020 BWA Report. This decision was based solely on our available time during the pandemic. We have not changed what we do and what is important to us. We have used our time to instead focus our attention on our team, suppliers and factory workers to ensure we offer as much support as we can to all those who are so important to us. We look forward to resuming our participation in the report in future.
While it’s sometimes difficult to look beyond the pandemic and the necessary restrictions we are experiencing, we believe the future looks bright for us all. We are confident we will come through these days in a stronger position and with a strengthened business and consolidated supply chain that supports our business now and into the future.
We sincerely thank everyone in the extended Sussan Group family for your support and we will continue to work to earn it in the times ahead.
Further information on our Ethical Sourcing program can be found below.
Sussan- Ethical Sourcing Audit Policy and Procedure Agreement:
Sussan takes very seriously the issue of Ethical Sourcing. We have embarked on a journey and learning, where we will continue to review and improve our processes. This document represents where we are currently up to in that journey and will evolve over time.
We believe that the employment opportunities provided by sourcing our products from low wage countries can lead to improvements in the life style of the people employed by factories that produce our garments and the overall economy of those countries. Our challenge is to balance the ethical requirements of a developed country like Australia with the realities of production in a low wage country. We are very careful to ensure where we source in certain low wage countries that the workers are respected and avoid countries where we are not satisfied appropriate standards are maintained. Our buying and executive teams visit factory locations regularly to review and check on production.
As a means of addressing this challenge, Sussan requests each supplier producing goods for sale in Sussan to respect, understand and adhere to the Code of Conduct for manufacturers. This is be done by signing the Audit Policy and Procedures document, which outlines the procedures for ensuring compliance with the Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct has been based on the European Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI).
The aim of the audit program is to support suppliers in a process of continual improvement in their progress towards the goal of ethical production processes. Factories will be encouraged in their movement towards total compliance with the Code of Conduct and their progress will be monitored through the audit program. This will include identification of shortfalls in adherence to ethical standards and the setting of goals for improvement by the next audit.
Compliance with the Code of Conduct will be monitored through an audit program to be carried out by an independent auditor. The audit procedures and requirements for compliance are outlined in this document.
CODE OF CONDUCT
The Sussan auditing program is based on the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) code of conduct with addition of an environmental section. There are ten (10) sections to be evaluated during the audit. Within these 10 criteria, there are three areas that Sussan sees as Non Negotiable and grounds for immediate cessation of business with the factory and reporting to authorities. These three areas are;
Employment must not be forced and must be free of restrictions such as deposits and restrictions on after hours movement.
Child labour is not allowed and young people under 18 years of age, shall not be employed at night or in hazardous areas. No one younger than 16 years of age shall be employed at any time.
Treatment in the work place
Physical abuse of workers is prohibited.
The ten areas of that will be covered in the audits are:
1. Employment is freely chosen.
2. Freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are respected.
3. Working conditions are safe and hygienic.
4. Child labour shall not be used.
5. Living wages are paid.
6. Working hours are not excessive.
7. No discrimination is practised.
8. Regular employment is provided.
9. No harsh or inhumane treatment is allowed.
For Sussan these standards represent a minimum and not maximum standard and should not be used by companies to avoid achieving even higher standards.
Companies applying this code are also expected to comply with national and other applicable laws and, where the provisions of law and, where this Code of Conduct addresses the same subject, to apply that provision which affords the greater protection.
In response to a global investigation and the Justice & International Mission correspondence August 2012, our company implemented a process of confirmation and Supplier commitment that our production does not include any cotton harvested from Uzbekistan including a process of mill assessment by an independent Auditor to confirm such compliance.
Sussan can confirm that no Azo Dyes are used in any of our denim production.
Concern has been raised for the humane treatment of Angora Rabbits in the production of garments contain Angora Fur. We do not use Angora Fur in any of our company’s products.
Our company does not use animals for testing of our products.
AUSTRALIAN PACKAGING COVENANT
Sussan is a signatory to the Australian Packaging Covenant (APC), a federal government initiative which is focused on reduction in packaging and increase in recycling to reduce that which reaches landfill. As a signatory you are required to submit a five year action plan aimed at achieving key milestones and objectives in this area. Our detailed action plan can be viewed on the APC web site.