Rowlinson Knitwear transforms the lives of its overseas workers

The daughter of a New Horizon factory worker enjoying fresh water at home, thanks to Rowlinson’s water filter initiative

An independent survey by social impact company 60 Decibels has revealed that Rowlinson Knitwear is transforming the lives of its overseas workers in Bangladesh.

Commissioned by the UK Department for International Development and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), 60 Decibels conducted 214 telephone interviews with workers at New Horizon Bangladesh, the largest supplier to employee-owned Rowlinson. The results confirm the positive impact of the schoolwear manufacturer’s ethical practices on workers’ health and wellbeing, economic status, workplace safety, worker satisfaction and quality of life.

An ETI Foundation Member since 2017 and a longstanding ethical business, Rowlinson works closely in partnership with ETI to adopt best practice throughout its global supply chain. Its initiatives include the gifting of large domestic water filters to workers; upholding UK standards in health and safety throughout the factory; good rates of pay; female healthcare education; the provision of sanitary products to female workers; and funding access to Amader Kotha, an anonymous helpline for workers.

The results of the survey are as follows:

  • Water filter initiative: Rowlinson has gifted over 730 large domestic water filters safeguarding the health of workers, their families and friends who might otherwise be at risk from drinking contaminated water. As a result, sickness is 47% lower, workers spend 46% less on medical costs and absenteeism is 39% lower. An ongoing initiative, qualifying employees also receive an annual replacement water filter kit to maintain their health and wellbeing.
  • A safe workplace: Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a recognised gauge of satisfaction and loyalty, with a score above 50 considered excellent. The NPS among all workers at New Horizon is 58. The NPS among female workers at New Horizon is an outstanding 81. By contrast, 10% of female garment factory workers in Bangladesh are subjected to sexual harassment, molestation and assault in the workplace.
  • Quality of life: 90% of workers say working at New Horizon has improved or much improved their quality of life. They attribute this to better health, feeling safe, being paid more, being supported in the workplace, and not having to work overtime.

Ken Edgar, overseas director at Rowlinson, said: “We’re really proud that our ethical approach is helping to make life better for the skilled people who make our garments. We want all workers in our supply chain to be safe, well paid and healthy, because it’s right to demonstrate care for customers, colleagues, suppliers and factory workers alike. Being kind and doing good is in our DNA, as we strive to shape a more caring and environmentally-conscious economy for everyone.”

Lindsay Wright, ETI, added: “Rowlinson’s success in improving the health and wellbeing of its workers in Bangladesh shows just how much companies can achieve by committing to work directly with suppliers, giving workers a voice, and prioritising long-term, sustainable relationships over short-term profits.”

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