People standing and smiling
August 2021

ALDI successfully completed the ALDI Factory Advancement Project in Bangladesh

Katharina Wortmann (Director Corporate Responsibility International)
Katharina Wortmann
Director Corporate Responsibility International

For many years, ALDI has shown its commitment to promote human rights in the garment industry. With the ALDI Factory Advancement (AFA) Project, we established a great way to achieve change in the factories that produce our garments in Bangladesh. After eight years, we have successfully completed the AFA Project and recognised a significant improvement in workplace cooperation between workers and managers.

What is the AFA Project?

We introduced the ALDI Factory Advancement (AFA) Project because there are many different reasons why conflicts between workers and management can arise, examples include a lack of workplace safety or disagreements over wages and salaries. ALDI wanted to tackle these challenges head on and improve the working environment in its garment production facilities in Bangladesh. The aim of the project was to promote dialogue and cooperation between workers and managers. Through the active involvement of workers, challenges were identified, critically examined and joint solutions were developed in collaboration with the management.

Over the past eight years, the AFA project was divided into two phases. Launched in 2013 (together with ALDI Nord), AFA Project trainers guided the dialogue and cooperation between workers and managers. When the first phase of the AFA Project was successfully completed in the summer of 2019, 85,000 workers and their managers from across 40 factories had already benefited from positive changes to their daily working environment. At the same time, phase 2.0 started: by training workers and managers to become facilitators, they were able to drive the positive developments forward in the long run, independently of the AFA project trainers.

People sitting in circle

 

Project Phase 1.0: 85,000 people in Bangladesh
benefitted from the AFA Project

To successfully implement profound changes, a safe place was created for workers to explain their challenges. Workers, managers and AFA Project trainers discussed various topics such as establishing effective communication structures, health and safety in their workplaces, working hours, promotion systems, private financial planning, quality management and productivity.

Improvement of Work Processes

The project included peer-to-peer learning activities where all factories came together to share information and learn from each other and then every two to three months, factories were involved in an activity. AFA Project trainers, business partners and employees from our CR Unit in Bangladesh and our Corporate Responsibility International department supported the project on an operational and strategic level.

During the 450 AFA Project activities, workers and managers in each factory identified and addressed a variety of different workplace challenges, such as ensuring the use of personal protective equipment, improving the quality of canteen food or setting up structures to prevent inappropriate behaviour by supervisors and middle management. The AFA project has shown factory owners that employees can make a significant contribution to improving factory work processes. Their creative ideas and keen observation initiated solutions that improved cooperation in the workplace and more effective communication. We conducted six impact assessments that measured the success of the AFA Project, and it was found that the increased collaboration and communication in the workplace resulted in higher productivity and quality.

Development of Childcare Services – AFA PLUS Project

ALDI implemented the AFA PLUS Project from 2016 to 2019 in order to meet the urgent need for high-quality childcare for working parents in the factories. Selected factories were supported in their internal day-care services, which included the topics of childcare practice, safety for children, health and nutrition, preschool education and the management of childcare centres.

Women working in garment factory

 

Project Phase 2.0: Solutions were developed independently
by Workers and Managers

From 2019 to 2021, the AFA Project phase 2.0 was implemented at six production sites and with four business partners. We used the six years of our experience to further develop the project. Our aim was to give employees the opportunity to continue improving working conditions in the factories without the support of the AFA Project trainers. In order to realise this, it was necessary to permanently establish methods and processes in the production sites and to ensure that the production sites continue their independent practice.

Training of Facilitators

Each factory selected two employees and two managers who were trained as facilitators for “cooperation in the workplace”. The selected employees and managers went through a process of active learning, practice, coaching and mentoring. In Facilitation Academies and workshops, employees, managers and business partners came together and received training on tools for workplace cooperation and coaching in moderation techniques and soft skills. During these activities, they had the opportunity to share experiences and learn from each other.

Positive Changes in Workplace Cooperation

Within the AFA Project phase 2.0 facilitators supported colleagues, managers and other existing committees in addressing over 130 workplace issues relating to wages and benefits, production and productivity, combating harassment, workers’ rights, grievance mechanisms, COVID-19 measures and occupational health and safety. Facilitators can now drive positive change in workplace cooperation by providing tools to deal with complex challenges. In order to ensure improved cooperation in the workplace in the future, a tailor-made strategy and roadmap has been established by each production site.

People talking in front of class
Woman explaining something to a worker
Women writting on whiteboard

Highlight & Way forward

Joint dialogue and the development of solutions are essential to resolve conflicts and increase productivity and quality. The AFA project has shown that the long-term implementation of these techniques can lead to great success and effectively improve the working atmosphere.

Based on the learnings from the AFA project, we are currently analysing how we can develop the future training. An important part will be to assess the need to adapt it in the best possible way.


 

ALDI CR Vision 2030

Human Rights

Partner for change
Partner for change
Upholding human rights
Upholding human rights

Sustainable Development Goals

8 Decent work and economic growth 12 Responsible consumption and production 17 Partnerships for the goals