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Improving the social & environmental working conditions in commercial factories globally

The Whatever It Takes licensing programme aims to raise money for charitable programmes, through the sale of products featuring the artworks of over 750 leaders. Crucially 21st Century Leaders wishes to ensure that funds are always raised without expense to anyone in the supply chain, keeping in mind especially, the workers who kindly work hard for our manufacturing partners, in commercial factories globally.

Therefore 21st Century Leaders requires its manufacturing partner licensees, to demonstrate that the suppliers in their supply chains provide good working conditions to their workers.  For 21st Century Leaders this supply chain includes not just the main production sites but also the suppliers that make the Whatever It Takes packaging and other peripherals.

21st Century Leaders takes its core understanding of good labour standards from the International Labour Organisation and uses the Ethical Trading Initiative's Base Code as a tool to assess working conditions.

Supplier factories are independently assessed and, where necessary, 21st Century Leaders works together with brand partners and their suppliers to improve working conditions through a programme of corrective actions and training.

21st Century Leaders recognises that trading ethically and responsibly, so that all in the supply chain benefit, is not just a matter of a one-off assessment but of continuous engagement and we work with partner manufacturers, suppliers and independent social verifiers to this end.

21st Century Leaders is just one project.  However we hope that we can raise awareness about responsible trade amongst consumers, retailers and suppliers alike so that we can all work together towards a new model of trading. One that includes considerations about production conditions, as much as price and quality, so that all benefit.

Achievements, Progress and Successes

Through the Whatever It Takes programme which takes our celebrity leaders artworks as a basis to produce exciting gift and lifestyle products, we are currently working with 5 licensees helping to improve the working conditions in in 31 factories (14 product factories and 17 packaging factories) around the world. Some of these factories are very small, just 50 or so workers. Others have hundreds and are themselves part of larger groups.

Rather than tie up the Foundations own capital and place this at risk, 21st Century Leaders instead licenses chosen manufacturers in specific product category areas to produce, warehouse, sell and distribute products using the Whatever It Takes charitable brand and donated celebrity artworks. Licensees each pay a royalty fee to 21st Century Leaders on the sale of each product.

All licensees have started on an ethical trading programme before they can start supplying Whatever It Takes products.  In almost all cases licensees have provided an audit report against the ETI Code (or equivalent).

One of the key benefits of the programme is also to inspire, educate and support the licensees to think about their environmental impact, not only through our programme, but throughout all of their production.

21st Century Leaders' style of questioning conforms to the environmental management system, ISO14000, which is based on continuous monitoring and improvement. All claims about raw materials are verified, all certificates of working to a particular environmental management system are gathered, any and all information is used to help the licensees continue to make new environmental developments on subsequent lines.

The point of the Whatever It Takes programme is to leverage change, therefore we do not to work only with those suppliers that already perform to world class environmental standards. Instead we purposefully engage with manufacturing partners, who often start with little or no social and environmental awareness, so that we can help all of these commercial companies to improve over time, even if it is little by little. In addition the Whatever It Takes programme aims to impact through our supply chain, the factory working conditions itself, and the also to educate our commercial partners and to help them organise themselves to address social and environmental supply chain issues, as we don't just want the goods made for our Whatever It Takes project to be considered, reviewed and improved, but also the rest of what these commercial factories make.

Once our partners are aware of how to produce products that are more environmentally sustainable, it is hard to go back.

Who makes this happen?

Chitra Das is a CSR / Sustainability professional with 18 years of experience in responsible sourcing from over 25 countries across supply chains for apparel, footwear & accessories, electronic and consumer goods industries.

With her work ranging from managing responsible sourcing projects for manufacturers, importers and  large corporations, she is well versed in the needs and opportunities that exist across sectors of manufacturing and manufacturing standards; encompassing product quality assuring that manufactured items are made and assembled correctly, to government standards, safety regulations, and to ethical and environmental categories such as 'animal rights', 'human rights' and 'pollution and toxics'.

Chitra used to work as a Senior Analyst of Global Compliance for a large North American retailer. Among her specific responsibilities, she is responsible for the global factory monitoring program, external stakeholder engagement and communications, industry collaboration, supply chain philanthropic investments, risk assessment, research, and training.

Her practical experience in addressing both the environmental sustainability and social components of CSR, is used in her consultancy role at Whatever It Takes, to ensure sourcing practices and products under brand 'WIT' meet with its ethical and environmental promises.