People in circle laughing from Bangladesh factory

ALDI Factory Advancement Project

Our Approach

The ALDI SOUTH Group is committed to promoting human rights in the garment industry. Together with ALDI Nord, we introduced our ALDI Factory Advancement (AFA) Project, an effective tool that delivered change in factories that produce our garments in Bangladesh.

From 2013 to 2021, the AFA Project placed factory workers and managers at the centre of its activities to find sustainable solutions for improving workplaces. Its core principle was the promotion of dialogue and cooperation between workers and managers. Together they identified challenges, examined them critically and then created joint visions for the future with tailor-made solutions to reach improvement. Because of the commitment and the ownership of both parties, real change was achieved.

Rabeja - Worker of an AFA Project factory

“I realised that my opinion and my ideas are important in order to advance my factory. We learned how to use good communication and dialogue to resolve any problems or conflicts in the factory.”

Rabeya, worker of an AFA Project factory

The key to the project’s success was the active involvement of the workers. Approximately 85,000 workers and their managers in 40 participating factories benefitted from the project and experienced positive changes in their day-to-day working environment.

Our Actions

Project Phase 1.0

The first phase of the AFA Project was successfully completed in the summer of 2019. During 450 AFA Project activities, workers, managers and AFA Project trainers discussed various topics such as the establishment of effective communication structures, health and safety in their workplaces, working hours, promotion systems, private financial planning, quality management and productivity. Additionally, six impact assessments were conducted to measure the success of the AFA Project.

Project Phase 2.0

AFA ProjectIn the second half of 2019, we launched the exciting next phase of the AFA Project – an innovative pilot with selected AFA Project factories and business partners. Together we took the AFA Project to the next level: we used six years’ worth of experience to develop a programme that made factories independent of the support of AFA Project trainers.

We know that skilled facilitators are key to creating sustainable solutions. It is the facilitators who provide the mindset and tools for dealing with complex challenges and who are driving positive change through workplace cooperation.

AFA Project Plus: Childcare service

AFA Project PlusFrom 2016 until 2019, the AFA Project PLUS addressed the critical need for quality childcare for the children of working parents in factories that produce our textile goods in Bangladesh. ALDI supported selected factories participating in the AFA Project in improving their internal day-care services.

Many workers are reliant on these services due to financial constraints and a lack of alternative care options. Together with local non-governmental organisations, we trained caregivers, childcare centre supervisors, nurses and parents working at the factory. A total of 16 production facilities have been included in the AFA Project PLUS.

    Our Performance

    Phase 1.0 (2013-2019)

    85000

    Workers and managers experienced positive change

    40

    Factories involved

    450

    Factory advancement project

    Phase 2.0 (2019-2020)

    130

    Workplace issues were addressed

    6

    Factories were involved

    126

    Independent sessions were conducted by facilitators

    Our Successes

    Female and male people sitting on ground
    Sustainable solutions
    Facilitating authorised leave in factories via a hotline

    Challenge:

    In one AFA Project factory, managers noticed that workers were often absent without giving any explanation. This hampered production and led to overtime for other workers. In one of our first activities, workers and managers discussed the root causes. They found out that workers stayed away from the factory without giving prior notice because the procedure to request leave, e.g. in case of sickness or for vacation, was difficult to understand.

    Solution:

    Managers and workers jointly decided to conduct an awareness campaign on which types of leave exist and the leave procedure according to the Bangladeshi labour law. Additionally, a “leave hotline” was set up. It serves as an information and grievance channel which workers can approach when they have issues with their leave. Workers mainly use this hotline for two purposes:

    1. If workers need leave while they are outside the factory, e.g. when they become sick.
    2. When leave applications were not approved and workers feel that this is unfair.

    Outcome:

    Between 15 and 30 workers use the hotline each month. The proportion of workers using the proper leave procedure increased by 50%.

    AFA Project participant: Ambia
    Effective communication
    Improving the working environment

    Challenge:

    When joining the AFA Project, workers of one factory identified working practices on one specific work line as the most pressing issue. The line supervisor was unsatisfied with the workers’ performances and pressured workers to improve.

    Solution:

    Workers and managers jointly discussed why the sewing quality of garments and the productivity of this line was below-average. By creating a safe space for everyone to speak up and listen actively, workers started to raise their concerns to the management: The line was located right next to the window where fans were fixed and the circulated air blew the fabrics off work stations. Workers and managers decided to rearrange the line away from the fans.

    Outcome:

    The quality and productivity of the line as well as the relationship between workers and managers improved significantly. Workers feel less pressured and are much more satisfied with their working environment.

    Women with hijab writing on board
    Potential in workers
    Understanding salaries

    Challenge:

    One of the main sources of grievances in factories is the salary of employees, as workers are often unaware of the payslip and confused about the calculation of their salary including all allowances, bonuses, overtime and potential deductions. This often resulted in a large number of complaints at the HR department.

    Solution:

    Workers and managers came up with the idea to produce a video in their factory in order to provide awareness about the payslip, the wage structure and salary calculation to workers. Workers were also involved in the production of the video: from writing a script to being actors. The involvement of the workers in the production of the video ensured that the content of the video was relevant and easily understood.

    Outcome:

    The workers now understand their monthly pay slip and the composition of their wage. Also, complaints at the HR department decreased.

    Garment workers in factory line
    Increased productivity and quality
    Ensuring a safer workplace

    Challenge:

    Workers and managers identified poor housekeeping as a major safety problem in their factory: They used cardboard boxes to store and transport materials from one workstation to another. Theses boxes blocked aisles and workplaces and increased the risk of fire.

    Solution:

    Sometimes the solution to an issue is something really simple, but it takes a moment to talk and listen to each other in order to discover it: The workers and managers decided to replace the cardboard boxes with plastic boxes. Plastic boxes are less vulnerable to fire and can be stacked better and, due to their size, provided better opportunities to be stored in the designated areas without blocking emergency ways.

    Outcome:

    Workers now feel safer. The solution also resulted in productivity gains: less dirt enters the boxes, which makes the products cleaner and reduces the need for spot removal. This saves time in the production process. Also, the boxes can be reused which reduces costs for the factory.

    Women standing on whiteboard writing
    Effective communication
    Improving collaboration between workers and management

    Challenge:

    Workers were not satisfied with the collaboration between the management and workers. This resulted in a negative working environment.

    Solution:

    Workers and managers jointly decided to train the leadership skills of managers and supervisors with the aim to provide measures that  would create a better working environment for all. In the training, eight soft skills were taught to improve communication skills of the management in order to solve upcoming issues.

    It was also decided that workers should be part of the committees to guarantee that workers participate and involve their point of view in the decision-making processes.

    Outcome:

    Workers are now more involved in the decision-making processes. As a result, collaboration between management and workers has improved. Conflicts were better resolved, which has contributed to a positive working environment.

    Women talking to worker
    Sustainable solutions
    Understanding the annual leave approval process

    Challenge:

    Workers did not receive their full payment because they did not use the annual leave approval procedure correctly. As a result, annual leave taken by the workers was reported as unexcused absences.

    Solution:

    The management and the facilitation team worked together to simplify the annual leave approval process for workers and provide more information and advice about the function of the annual leave approval process to workers. Additionally, supervisors were trained on how to increase awareness about the annual leave approval process among workers.  

    Outcome:

    Worker satisfaction has increased as there are now fewer conflicts regarding the calculation of their wages. Additionally, the management is now able to plan capacities for the production processes more effectively.