Looking Beyond Our Immediate Factories – Tier 2 Improvement

As our network of factories continues to grow, it has become increasingly important to understand in more depth exactly how our supply chain works. By taking a look not only at the immediate factories Matrix works with on a day to day basis but also the Tier 2 suppliers further down the supply chain who are a fundamental part in product development, we have been able to establish how conditions can be improved, and how to share our best compliance practices beyond just our immediate scope.

Through client audit requirements, it came to light that an issue commonly faced by factories in China is the un regulation of their Tier 2 suppliers who provide raw materials and often packaging to the factories we work closely with. Upon visiting three Tier 2 suppliers recently, our Ethical Team found they had no previous audit experience and therefore subject to a range of non-compliance issues that affect the health and safety of their workers.

Our aim, therefore, was to support the factories by installing basic CSR management systems to pass the client audit requirements and improve day-to-day conditions for the workers.

How did we provide support?

To begin with, our ethical team on the ground were able to arrange an action plan to help each supplier identify the critical issues and compliance gaps through a full initial assessment. This led to four visits for each site and a factory improvement plan that each site committed to implementing.

  • The 1st visit to the suppliers enabled a report to be prepared to highlight the essential changes needed.
  • The 2nd visit allowed our ethical team to explain to the factories the importance of fixing critical issues and how to avoid them reoccurring in future.
  • The 3rd visit shared compliance training for all line leaders and re-visited progress on the critical issues addressed during the 1st
  • The 4th visit provided final guidance on the expectations and details for the client audits and how follow up actions should be addressed.

Through the use of our Matrix WeChat service, MatrixChat, our team were able to answer any of the supplier’s questions quickly and share client training and expectations too.

Was the training successful?

The result for the suppliers was tremendous. All suppliers were willing to learn and understood the importance of meeting client and brand standards. As a result of our support, all three suppliers passed the client audit and made significant improvements within a short period of three months. After the training, 70% of the major issues had been improved and 90% of supervisors and line workers accepted the CSR training provided by Matrix. This allowed factories to become familiar with compliance audits by 3rd party and commit towards maintaining audit status by strengthening internal surveillances.

The most significant result, however, was the improvement to issues faced by workers. For instance, by installing fire alarms, practising fire drills, regular fire safety inspections, new exit signs and emergency lights, worker’s everyday conditions have been made safe. Reducing the risks in our tier 2 suppliers has ultimately improved overall working conditions and will benefit the future workforce at each site for years to come.

Benefits of Training

The effort undertaken by our ethical team demonstrates our commitment and success in providing support to our tier 1 factories and their tier 2 suppliers, enabling them to improve their efforts towards CSR. Before visits and training, all suppliers did not have one dedicated person responsible for factory standards and health and safety and had almost zero compliance knowledge. However, Matrix has been able to help these suppliers raise standards and achieve acceptable levels of compliance that can be built on during the coming years.

While Matrix understands it is a significantly large job to be able to provide training to all Tier 2 suppliers across our supply chain, it has highlighted the need and the benefit of sharing our ethical knowledge to suppliers outside of our immediate factory scope. We believe this will be extremely beneficial to not only our supply chain but also to our clients and product quality as components and packaging are produced in cleaner and safer environments.