Collective Action – The Integrity Journey

18-05-2021

 

In 2020 amfori partnered with Alliance for Integrity (AFIN) and set out on an integrity journey in India. The programme was divided into two phases:

  • Phase 1- Training and pre-consultation
  • Phase 2: Adaptation and collective action

amfori worked closely with AFIN in the second phase of this journey bringing experience, expertise and a network of producers from amfori supply chain in India.  The partnership was valuable for two main reasons: Ethical Business Behaviour is one of the 11 integral principles of amfori BSCI code of conduct and Capacity Building is a USP of the amfori Academy, which offers trainings to develop skills in sustainable supply chain management.

Primarily, the objective of this Collective Action was to reinforce the participants’ competencies - SME Manufacturers in the Textile Sector in Maharashtra - in implementing systems, strengthening compliances and processes within their organisation to combat corruption and improve responsible business conduct. Another objective was to show how to establish and manage compliance management systems with a special focus on understanding the grey areas in the Export compliances.

Further outcomes included mentorship and training on the legal framework, business requirements and best practices allowing for peer-to-peer learning and collective practical solutions development.

Participants were given the opportunity to discuss the challenges in compliance they face on a day-to- day basis, present the irregularities that force them to pay bribes and explain how they deal with them. Focus was put on communication, trust and confidence between mentors and participants and special time was made for bilateral exchanges on top of the main sessions.

Following the exchanges with industrialists as well as by observing the textile sector in Maharashtra and India more generally, it was possible to identify specific problems causing unethical practices. These include:

  • Lack of exports and low profitability
  • Issues with GST Compliance
  • Stringent compliances and lack of know-how
  • Technical clearances, bribery, quality inspections and high electricity tariffs.

Some solutions were suggested such as implementing a “buddy system” meaning that each core group member is responsible of 3-4 participants who can reach out to them directly for support and advice, keeping in mind the sensitivity related to the topic of corruption.

We saw active participation from company owners and compliance officers from companies at different stages of industrial growth. Overall, seven participants out of fifteen completed the entire integrity journey.

Several success stories have come out of the experience, for example a company from the amfori supply chain improved their anti-bribery policy by adding a clause related to the consequences of unethical behaviour involving their vendors / business partners /or third parties engaged in their activities. They realised that having an anti-bribery policy was a good first step but that it had to be followed-up with clear action.

The pilot collective action led by Alliance for Integrity in association with amfori could pave the way for similar initiatives across domains, regions, and sectors. This project highlights the importance of upscaling to make integrity in business a priority.

The 4th Global Conference on “Achieving Business Integrity through Collective Action – Success, Lessons and Challenges” was held between April 27 – April 29, 2021. amfori India Network Representative, Natasha Majumdar shared the objectives, success and learnings from this collective action at Side Event of the conference titled: Collective Action – Looking Back at Integrity Journey