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Progress in 2020
Women in traditional apparel working at desktop computers
Women in traditional apparel working at desktop computers

Responsible Sourcing: Progress in 2020

In 2020, we restructured our Responsible Sourcing Programme to respond to the social and economic crises our suppliers and their workers faced because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporting Workers, Suppliers and Communities During COVID-19
Amazon is committed to supporting our suppliers, their workers and their communities as they are impacted by COVID-19. Of course, the global COVID-19 pandemic made 2020 a particularly challenging year, as suppliers faced massive supply chain disruption, workers were displaced and communities experienced unimaginable loss. We immediately went to work to address these challenges.
We adapted our due diligence: In 2020, we had to change how we assessed suppliers. With COVID-19 restrictions, it was much harder to conduct on-site assessments. We continued to utilise traditional audits when it was safe to do so, but when on-site audits became challenging or impossible due to safety restrictions, we adopted new mechanisms to assess risk, including self-assessment questionnaires and remote document review.
We engaged suppliers: We developed guidance and trainings for suppliers on how to support and protect workers during the pandemic. We educated managers on workplace hygiene and proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of COVID-19. We also encouraged suppliers to continue pay for workers during shutdowns, recognising the extraordinary toll layoffs are taking on the workforce.
We invested in workers: In 2020, we created a 1.3 million USD fund to invest in organisations providing critical frontline support to workers impacted by COVID-19. For example, we provided support to organisations like the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Bangladesh to distribute medical supplies and COVID-19-related resources for frontline doctors, nurses and medical workers operating in the largest refugee camp in the world. The contribution supported the procurement of lifesaving PPE – approximately 322,000 gloves, 16,000 gowns and coveralls, 18,300 N95 respirators and 119,000 face shields – for 23 IOM-managed health facilities, serving to benefit both refugee and host community populations in the region.
We listened to workers: We increased our investment in Amader Kotha, meaning ‘Our Voice’ in Bengali, a helpline that provides workers in the Bangladesh ready-made garment sector a safe and effective way to report and resolve workplace issues. In 2020, we enrolled 23 Amazon suppliers in Amader Kotha’s programme. For every worker call, the helpline follows a defined protocol to address the reported issue until it is resolved with their employer. For example, in December 2020, Amader Kotha received a call from a worker employed with one of our Bangladesh suppliers. The worker reported verbal and physical abuse and retaliatory firing when they refused to complete overtime after normal working hours. Amader Kotha immediately connected with the supplier’s compliance team to investigate the issue. As a result, the supplier rehired the aggrieved worker and dismissed the two employees who had harassed them. In 2021, we will enrol additional Amazon suppliers with Amader Kotha and launch training for workers on how to make use of this resource.
We engaged in responsible purchasing practices and learnt about the impact on workers: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon has honoured all orders to our global suppliers from our US and European private-label clothing businesses. We also worked with Better Buying, an initiative working to improve purchasing practices in global supply chains, to conduct a survey of our suppliers in Vietnam and their workers on the impacts of our practices during COVID-19. We received more than 1,300 worker responses, indicating that their primary concerns were unstable personal finances related to business uncertainty during COVID-19, changes to forecasted orders and factory safety concerns linked to dispatch date pressures. Suppliers gave positive feedback on several aspects of our practices, including our increased communication during COVID-19, decisions to honour orders and flexibility on delivery times.
Supporting Workers Through COVID-19
  • 1.3 Million USD
    Amazon is committed to supporting our suppliers, their workers and their communities as they are impacted by COVID-19. In 2020, Amazon created a 1.3 million USD fund to invest in organisations providing critical frontline support to workers impacted by COVID-19.

Case Study: Supporting Worker Health and Safety with Swasti

Health and safety issues have always been a key focus of our Responsible Sourcing Programme, and COVID-19 demonstrated the importance of health and safety standards in protecting worker well-being.

At the onset of COVID-19, Amazon partnered with Swasti, a global non-profit committed to ensuring access to quality healthcare for workers in marginalised communities. Swasti adjusted its worker well-being programme to provide support to workers in factories impacted by COVID-19. With our support, Swasti set up a worker helpline, developed health protocols for workers to return to work safely and provided critical mental health, healthcare and social entitlement support to workers, their families and their communities. Swasti trained worker-led response teams on COVID-19 prevention and management; the teams educated other workers by showing videos on the factory floor and posting critical health information. Swasti also provided remote healthcare to workers and contacted workers and their family members to identify COVID-19 risks and provide medical support. When Swasti identified a pandemic-related food shortage at a programme site, it distributed food to employees who were in need.

Aside from COVID-19 specific work, Swasti also provides workers with primary healthcare and programmes on gender equity, financial inclusion and strengthening workers committees at sites to promote better communication channels between management and workers.

A smiling woman with woven baskets places them into a cardboard box.

Commodity Traceability
In 2020, we continued to map deeper tiers of our Amazon-branded product supply chains in order to identify the most salient and material risks. Commodity supply chains are complicated and fragmented, and improved visibility into raw material supply chains enables businesses to identify human rights and labour rights violations and hold suppliers accountable.
  • We Focused on Cotton
    In 2020, we strengthened our efforts on cotton. Amazon has joined other brands as a member of Better Cotton Initiative’s Retailer and Brand Advisory Panel on Traceability. In 2021, Amazon is sponsoring and participating in the RSN initiative YESS: Yarn Ethically & Sustainably Sourced. YESS works to address forced labour in the cotton value chain by providing training to – and managing the assessment of – spinners and fabric mills to identify and address forced labour in cotton production.
  • We Focused on Minerals
    In 2020, we became a member of the Public-Private Alliance for the Responsible Minerals Trade (PPA), and expanded our participation in the Responsible Minerals Initiative (RMI). We committed to supporting the PPA’s on-the-ground efforts to promote responsible trade, and became active members of RMI’s working groups on Smelter Engagement and Cobalt due diligence.

Case Study: Supporting Artisans During COVID-19

In 2020, Amazon partnered with Nest, a non-profit supporting the growth and development of the global artisan sector to build a world of greater gender equity and economic inclusion. We supported Nest’s PPE Purchasing Initiative – a programme that purchased over 200,000 protective masks from artisan and maker businesses for delivery to front-line workers. In 2020, this programme provided over 500,000 USD in economic relief to 57 businesses, employing 10,510 skilled artisans.

We also partnered with Nest to provide more than 100 COVID-19 economic relief grants to artisan businesses around the globe. For example, Nest provided a grant to Indego Africa, an organisation that provides artisans with a global market for their handmade products and educational opportunities for women-owned businesses in Africa. Sapna Shah, Indego Africa’s Director of Brand and Operating Strategy, shared that because of this funding, Indego Africa was able to provide consistent purchase orders to the company’s artisan partners for their handmade products, protecting them from the economic disruption due to COVID-19. Amazon Handmade, a destination in our online store that specialises in handmade products, has launched a programme to highlight the work of Nest artisan businesses, including Indego Africa, providing access to selling and growth opportunities.

As part of its grant programme, Nest also supported a Digital Marketing Fellowship for Kay Kay’s Fashion, a Black-owned, woman-owned hair accessories company in Southfield, Michigan. When applying to the programme, business owner Kelechi Uchendu outlined her need as: ‘strengthen[ing] my brand DNA and also working on increasing my business to consumer sales.’ Nest matched Uchendu with an integrated marketer and brand strategist with 10 years of experience in e-commerce. Together, they developed a project plan, resulting in updated language for Uchendu’s business website, a brand presentation she could use for marketing and tools to help Kay Kay’s Fashion deepen its online presence. Uchendu shared, ‘I learnt so many things. One of the major things that I learnt was how to brand my company properly and how to clean up my website so that it really showcases my brand.’

Nest distributed another Digital Marketing Fellowship grant to a woman-owned small business Espacio Handmade, an Austin, Texas, company specialising in leather goods sourced from and crafted in the US. Nest matched the company’s owner, Katrina Marhefka with a professional digital marketing agency that helped her launch a successful e-mail marketing campaign. Marhefka is a business leader and a maker who is proud to recruit women. ‘Leatherworking is seen as such a male-dominated skill. Not anymore!’ she says. Marhefka’s participation in the fellowship helped her develop systems and identify business opportunities.

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