Supply Chain & Manufacturing
Our commitment to responsible production
Our CSR Policy outlines our commitment to operate in a socially and environmentally responsible way.
Over many years, we have developed rigorous, consistent processes to monitor our partner factories and ensure their compliance with best industry practice and international standards.
All our Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers are signatories of our Supplier Code of Conduct. We choose to work with suppliers who are aligned with our policies and values and show a willingness to meet our ethical standards.
We engage globally recognised third party organisations to conduct regular audits. We also follow up in person. Members of the ZIMMERMANN team are in constant contact with our garment makers, printing mills and other suppliers in Asia, South America and Europe. These include many suppliers we’ve grown with over the course of our business, and small artisanal producers as well as larger, vertical organisations that give us access to the latest technology and innovations.
ZIMMERMANN is a member of The United Nations Global Compact and therefore has declared support for the Ten Principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption. We have joined the NEST Coalition for Craft and Culture. And we welcome Australia’s leading role in introducing Modern Slavery legislation.
Our Modern Slavery Statements have been published in the Australian Government's Online Register.
We work with factories and artisans around the world depending on the product involved.
In relation to garments, the majority are made in China. We also make garments in Portugal, Poland, India and Turkey.
Most of our footwear is made in Italy, by expert craftspeople in long established factories known for their quality.
Many of our accessories are made by artisan workshops and co-operatives. In Australia, we work with The Hatmaker on handcrafted hats, and we partner with Petite Grande to make jewellery.
We have sourced and developed handmade accessories from cooperatives based in Madagascar, Morocco and the Philippines. Because this type of work usually takes place in non-traditional and decentralised workspaces, we have partnered with Nest to conduct wage and workplace diagnostics to ensure worker wellbeing.
Some examples of the cooperatives are below:
- In Madagascar we produce raffia finished materials which are made into bags, visors and footwear uppers. This facility has been a long-term ZIMMERMANN supplier and we are dedicated to laying a solid foundation for their future participation in Nest's Ethical Handcraft Program.
- In Morocco we partner with a handmade leather and raffia bag cooperative which is SA8000 certified and building the groundwork for future enrolment in the Nest Ethical Handcraft Program.
- In the Philippines our cane and raffia bag maker is part of the Nest Artisan Guild.
Type of Supplier
Number of Companies FY21
Number of Factories FY21
Tier 1 Garments
Tier 1 Accessories/Footwear
Tier 2 Fabrics & Trims
For garments, we work with 4 primary suppliers making 62% of our garment production by spend. These primary suppliers use 7 factories, 5 of which are dedicated to ZIMMERMANN.
For fabrics, we have three long term suppliers whose businesses have grown with ours. These three suppliers use 5 print mills accounting for 80% of our fabric purchasing, allowing for more control over quality, certification and testing.
No, ZIMMERMANN does not own/operate any factories.
ZIMMERMANN has strict requirements on health and safety, human rights and the fair, lawful and respectful treatment of workers in supplier factories. These are based on the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) code and include freedom of association and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, while banning all forms of forced or compulsory labour (Modern Slavery), child labour and discrimination.
As outlined above, we use various tools to communicate and uphold these requirements, starting with our Supplier Code of Conduct - we require all our suppliers to follow this code, and commit to its principles and framework. We include our Code of Conduct in the body of our supplier agreements rather than having it as a separate agreement, reflecting the fact that it is a key term of the commercial relationship. Find it here.
Open communication and constant review are key and we work closely with our business partners to ensure that not only are these standards being met, but that the process to achieve them meets our corporate and social obligations internationally. We also work with third party auditors, Non-Government Organisations and accreditors to ensure these standards and processes are being upheld.
In addition, we have recently launched a training program for our fabric and trim suppliers. The most recent training held in June 2021 was delivered over three days and focused on labour standards and health & safety (H&S). The workshop-style sessions provided the attendees, which included site managers, health and safety and worker committee representatives, with insight on practical steps for a continuous improvement in the areas of wage, working hours, social protection and H&S. After the training each mill submitted a roadmap to address their key challenges in those areas, and we are currently supporting them through the implementation phase.
Lastly, we have rolled out a worker voice assessment which, at the end of financial year 2021, had reached 426 workers (69% women and 31% men) across 16 sites. We have used this survey as a tool to gain further insight on workers wellbeing, as we are aware of the limitations of an audit in identifying some more complex issues such as harassment and discrimination. Participants are encouraged to complete the survey away from the workplace and the answers are anonymous.
Survey Findings (surveys completed between December 2020 and June 2021):(CM) Waist Hip
Indicators Strong Performance Satisfactory Performance Needs improvement Needs significant Improvement Average Score FY21 Work Atmosphere 63% 31% 6% (1 site) 0% Strong Performance Grievance Mechanism 56% 38% 6% (1 site) 0% Satisfactory Performance Wage and Hours 44% 50% 6% (1 site) 0% Satisfactory Performance Safety and Productivity 19% 81% 0% 0% Satisfactory Performance Workforce Stability 81% 19% 0% 0% Strong Performance
This assessment enables the identification of any material issues in production sites and gaps in grievance mechanisms and remediation available to the workers in our supply chain. We will continue to implement this type of assessment while we plan for the provision of additional tools such as grievance mechanisms to workers in our sites in high-risk areas.
Our suppliers are required to pass an independent, ethical standards audit. In addition, we aim for each supplier to be visited regularly, in person, by an appropriate member of the ZIMMERMANN team.
We work with an independent audit firm to audit our factories and we also accept audits commissioned by other organisations, providing that they are not older than 12 months, that the audit framework adopted meets our standards and that we have access to the audit findings and corrective action plans. This is a well-recognised industry methodology to limit over-auditing of suppliers.
In FY21, 95% of our Tier 1 Garment factories were validly audited. For Tier 1 Accessory factories, 64% had audits of which 44% were commissioned by ZIMMERMANN. In relation to Tier 2 suppliers which are currently less commonly audited in the industry, ZIMMERMANN commenced audits of these in late 2020 and 20% have had a valid audit of which 86% were commissioned by ZIMMERMANN. In addition to the annual re-assessments in sites with a current audit, we are progressing the roll-out of the audit program across new and existing sites to increase the assessment coverage.
Following an audit, if there are instances of non-compliance, we follow up on any reported issues by taking immediate measures and setting Corrective Action Plans. We aim to close issues as soon as possible, but always within 3-to-6 months.
In addition to our audits, ZIMMERMANN team members have visited over 70% of our garment, accessory and footwear suppliers. These facilities produce over 95% of our products. We were on track to make this close to 100%, but due to COVID travel restrictions, this has been postponed.
It is not uncommon for issues to be found following an audit - it shows they are effective. These are mostly minor, for example scissors not being tied to a desk, but may include more serious problems such as excessive overtime. To resolve these issues, we take a collaborative approach and work to resolve them in a reasonable time frame.
Corrective Action Plans are designed to resolve issues that directly affect the safety and wellbeing of factory employees. All parties are aware that if, after extensive communication, major failures continue, we may need to end the relationship with the factory.
We actively support our suppliers throughout the implementation of the Corrective Action Plan to maximise the opportunities of a prompt resolution of any issue identified. As mentioned, the training program that we rolled out for our tier 2 fabric and trim mills had the aim to define practical steps for the sites to improve their labour and health & safety standards. The training was developed by ZIMMERMANN with the support of third-party expert advisors who are assisting us in providing advice to our suppliers during the corrective action implementation phase.
ZIMMERMANN is a member of the United Nations Global Compact and therefore has declared support for the Ten Principles on human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.
We are committed to engaging in collaborative projects which advance the broader principles of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, including education, ocean conservation, anti-slavery and climate action.
We have registered to support the United Nations Decade of Oceans Science for Sustainable Development. With our commitment, we will help promote its objectives and provide foundation support for key restoration projects.
We are proud members of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) and encourage suitable suppliers to also join.
We have joined the NEST Coalition for Craft and Culture. In 2017, NEST was recognised by the United Nations for their Compliance for Home and Small Workshops methodology, which focuses on the social and economic advancement of global artisans and homeworkers. The NEST program will help us identify and map artisan cooperatives to improve craft worker welfare and working conditions.
To further develop our transparent relationships with skilled craftspeople who are home-workers within our Tier 1 supply base, we engaged Elevate (a globally recognised firm specialising in social, environmental and worker engagement) to scope an audit specifically focusing on the social welfare and working conditions of these workers.
When COVID 19 had significant impacts on garment workers, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) mobilised a Call to Action (Covid-19: Action in the Global Garment Industry) to respond. Collectively, the fashion industry must support manufacturers to survive the economic disruption and protect garment workers’ income, health and employment. We support the ILO’s aims, which are focused on 8 priority countries - Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Haiti and Ethiopia. We agree to support their work by providing sector expertise and are engaging in the Call to Action Working Group of India.
Audits verify a broad range of performance indicators to ensure that production sites operate in compliance with social and environmental laws and international standards, including guidance from the International Labour Organisation (ILO).
Beyond compliance with health and safety, wage and working hours regulations, our audits assess and verify that workers are treated fairly and their rights are upheld.
We check that employment is freely chosen and workers have signed an employment contract that clearly details their rights and entitlements.
We also check that employers do not restrict their employees’ right to form independent, worker-led associations, join unions and bargain collectively. This is important to ensure that workers are empowered to drive the resolution of workplace issues.
Our suppliers are required to have transparent systems in place for effective and confidential communication between workers and management. Our audits check that these systems exist, that workers are aware of them and feel comfortable using them to raise issues or concerns without fear of reprisal.
Since December 2020, we have used surveys to collect workers’ feedback. The answers are anonymous, and participants are encouraged to complete the survey away from their workplace. The surveys have been implemented to identify issues such as harassment and discrimination that may not emerge during an audit.
The surveys have also been an insightful tool to identify any gaps in grievance mechanisms and remediation available to the workers. Based on this insight, we are evaluating suitable solutions to fill any gaps by providing additional grievance mechanisms for workers to access anonymously and in their native language.
Wages at our Tier 1 and 2 partner facilities are validated annually by a third-party certified auditing firm. The lawful wage for the region is noted as part of the audit, and a sample group of employees’ wages are scrutinised across a three-month period.
We have created a management worksheet to accurately assess when an audit highlights a potential wage issue so we can effectively implement a Corrective Action Plan with the supplier. It is helpful that we have long-term working relationships with many of our suppliers, so are able to collaboratively engage with the senior management to make any necessary corrections or changes.
According to wage records collected during the audits, 100% of the tier 1 factories audited in FY21 pay their workers above the legal hourly minimum wage. In addition to the wage assessment conducted as part of the audits, we are planning an assessment to evaluate any gap between current wage paid to workers at our suppliers’ production sites and living wage. This assessment will commence by the end of the year.
According to wage records collected during the audits, the tier 1 factories we audited in FY21 pay their workers above the legal hourly minimum wage. In addition to the wage assessment conducted as part of the audits, we are working to assess any gaps between current wage paid to workers and living wage.
We have created a three-step process for identifying and onboarding new suppliers. It begins with assessing the quality of their work and their ability to deliver on the creative vision, but it is also vitally important for us to make sure they understand and share our social and environmental priorities. The second phase is pre-engagement, where the relationship is formalised by the supplier becoming familiar with, and signing, our Supplier Agreement and Code of Conduct. The third phase is onboarding, which includes sustainability training and procedure manuals.
In early 2020, we created a Pandemic Action Plan to manage our immediate response to the crisis. The plan is based on constant communication and ensuring supplier confidence in our goal to remain a long-term business partner. The steps to the plan are:
- Reach out and listen: What do our suppliers need? Offer support and enquire as to the state of the health of the owners, management, workers and their families;
- Health first: Ensure the management are following government-recommended hygiene standards in the factory;
- Monitor: Request self-assessment and transparency on working conditions;
- Assess & discuss: Assess current and future orders against current capacity and agree workable timelines;
- Double-check: Execute an interim third-party audit to ensure key working conditions and standards are being met;
- Collaborate: Implement a mutually workable payment plan ensuring the suppliers’ cash-flow allows their business to function.
We take a holistic and long-term approach. Our suppliers are our partners, and we are invested in them remaining viable during and after this crisis.
We have joined the Nest Coalition for Craft and Culture, a coalition of design-led brands with a shared commitment to responsible and creative engagement with the global handcraft community. The Coalition is leading the industry by:
- Introducing responsibly sourced handmade techniques and materials into contemporary collections;
- Supporting a globalised industry that celebrates cultural diversity and appreciation;
- Pushing design boundaries to give new life to craft techniques that may be in danger of dying out, countering loss of culture; and
- Furthering global gender equity by bringing meaningful work to women and marginalized communities limited in their abilities to work outside the home.
We currently make bags with a supplier in the Philippines who is part of the NEST Artisan Guild. In 2021, we asked our Moroccan and Madagascan suppliers to take part in NEST’s Diagnostic & Wage Assessment program - this was funded by ZIMMERMANN.
In addition to submitting our Modern Slavery Statement under Australian legislation as mentioned above, we ensure our staff and supplier management and their employees are knowledgeable about the threats related to the environment, human rights and modern slavery in the wider supply chain so they are better able to identify potential issues and risk. As a first step to raise awareness of this topic within our organisation, we have provided online training to all employees.
ZIMMERMANN requires that working conditions in its supply chain are safe, and that workers are treated lawfully and with respect and dignity. Our Supplier Code of Conduct is based on the Ethical Trading Initiative Base Code and the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organisation and sets out the required standards and conditions of doing business with ZIMMERMANN. These are: freedom of association and effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour – Modern Slavery; the effective abolition of child labour and Minimum Age Convention; and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
To reiterate the requirements of our Code of Conduct and our zero-tolerance approach for any form of modern slavery, we have launched a training program for our tier 1 and tier 2 suppliers where we raised awareness of modern slavery-related risks in the fashion supply chain, defined a due-diligence process to ensure that risks are understood and managed appropriately, and reaffirmed our transparency requirements.
The training was attended by 43 suppliers, which represent 87% of our garments and accessories spend and 81% of our fabrics and trims spend.