Travel gear retailer Kathmandu on Thursday revealed that its recent adoption of Chinese social channel WeChat has been instrumental in improving conditions for workers in the company’s supply chain in China.
Last financial year, Kathmandu created a QR code and posted it in its overseas factories. Factory workers can scan the code to access a portal to log complaints, which are immediately received by staff monitoring the channel.
“We care about the welfare of every worker in our supply chain, but enabling people to raise issues about workplace practices and conditions was previously extremely difficult,” Kathmandu corporate responsibility manager Gary Shaw said.
“In some cultures it can be difficult to make a complaint, but the QR code has proved to be empowering. We can now receive messages directly from the workers making our products.”
Before the introduction of WeChat as a method of communication within the business, workers only had access to an English email address in order to make complaints, Shaw noted in the company’s 2018 Sustainability Report.
This year, Kathmandu received its first grievance through the app, which alerted the company to the fact that one of its factories had been subcontracting out its work – something Kathmandu doesn’t allow without permission.
The factory initially denied the claims, but eventually admitted its fault. The retailer is now working with the factory to ensure it is 100 per cent compliant moving forward.
In a climate where Chinese workers have been known to place SOS letters in the goods they make hoping that someone outside of the business will read and report their allegations of human rights abuses, WeChat presents a promising alternative.