SHINE Publishes Report On A New Approach to the Well-being of Factory Workers in Global Supply Chains

We wanted to highlight our recently published paper, A New Approach to the Well-being of Factory Workers in Global Supply Chains: Evidence from Apparel Factories in Mexico, Sri Lanka, China and Cambodia, which was one of only eight selected papers chosen for publication by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in their new report Measuring The Impacts of Business on Well-being and Sustainability.  Dr. Dorota Weziak-Bialowolska, SHINE Research Associate, was invited to present the paper at the prestigious OECD World Forum on the Future of Well-being in Korea this year.

Most studies on factories in the supply chain focus on minimal safety and health at work or on “compliance audits with minimal standards”. The audit criteria are set to tackle violations only, rather than to understand process of improvement, efficiencies, and the effectiveness of corrective actions.

While the relationship between health and work is not new, the measurement of health and well-being as a way to evaluate the working environment, in line with business outcomes, is a new approach to evaluating and promoting social impact and health in the workplace.

Applying definitions of well-being at work that draw from decades of research in occupational health and safety, work stress and job strain, human flourishing and socially supportive communities, we conducted a comprehensive assessment of worker needs from the perspective of workers themselves. Worker health and well-being were considered in relation to various business outcomes, such as turnover and job satisfaction.

SHINE teamed up with Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.) and the brand’s vendors (supplier factories) in Mexico, Sri Lanka, China and Cambodia to collect data from approximately 9500 workers on factory working conditions, worker well-being, and business outcomes, to demonstrate the mutual dependency between worker needs and business needs.

Study Findings
Our study shows that by setting out a metric for continuous process improvement that includes the voices of buyers (brand), suppliers (factory management) and workers—especially in the most vulnerable regions of the globe—business can choose to be a force for good by changing expectations on the factory floor.

We found the following:

  • Improved physical and ergonomic working conditions, which are a standard in developed countries, are still lacking in middle- and low-income countries, exposing workers to serious health hazards and limiting their job satisfaction.
  • Adverse psychosocial conditions have a detrimental effect on workers’ mental conditions, affect their occupational safety by increasing risks of work injuries, and lead to decreased job satisfaction and higher turnover.
  • A trusting, caring and supportive climate, which ensures recognition of efforts and provides meaning to the work being conducted, can foster improvements in mental health, alleviate work hazards, and increase job satisfaction. Turnover may also be decreased through the supportive attitude of co-workers.
  • Alleviating living conditions in terms of fulfillment of basic needs for safety, nutrition, health care and financial security, as well as ensuring balance between work and family life, further contribute to workers’ flourishing.