ANN INC., the parent company of Ann Taylor and LOFT, is a purpose-driven company that aims to help women “put their best selves forward every day.” Women comprise more than 70 percent of ANN INC.’s supply chain labor force, and company leaders recognized the opportunity to help improve the lives of the women manufacturing their products.
After ANN INC. joined BSR’s HERproject in 2012, company leaders began to talk with us about how to deepen its investment in supply chain women’s empowerment and share its approach with sales associates and clients, in order to ensure consistency with the company’s strategic commitment to women in North America.
BSR worked with ANN INC.’s corporate responsibility team to design a two-part approach for the company’s supply chain women’s empowerment program. First, we defined a program that supported the women workers in ANN INC.’s supply chain, and then we worked with the company’s communications and brand teams to promote this work via marketing and communications.
In developing this program, we assessed ANN INC.’s existing commitments and strengths, including the company’s focus on products made ethically and its strong relationships with its suppliers. We also evaluated the main barriers to women’s empowerment, and we reviewed gender standards such as the UN’s Women’s Empowerment Principles.
Based on this, BSR and ANN INC. identified three main areas of action for the company: health and well-being, financial literacy, and workplace empowerment.
To bring this program to life at the corporate and store levels, we recommended that ANN INC. sign on to the Women’s Empowerment Principles, and we suggested that the company expand its current investments in BSR’s HERproject initiatives to ensure that women involved in manufacturing ANN INC.’s products would have the opportunity to receive health and financial literacy training.
As a result of this project, ANN INC. is revising its supplier code of conduct to ensure that the company and its suppliers share a vision to support women in accordance with the Women’s Empowerment Principles.
In the coming years, ANN INC., in partnership with its suppliers, will roll out a program that uses BSR’s HERproject and other supply chain programs to improve the well-being of women workers and create business benefits for suppliers. The company aims to ensure that at least 100,000 women are empowered to reach their full potential, and that this project will also strengthen their families and communities.
In the fall of 2014, the Ann Taylor brand will introduce a scarf in its holiday line that was produced by an artisanal cooperative receiving HERhealth training.
This project demonstrated the importance of taking a holistic approach to supply chain management:
- Rather than focusing purely on risk mitigation, engaging suppliers on opportunities to improve worker well-being has the ability not only to strengthen supplier relationships but also to model the types of investments that might result in systemic improvements for workers in global supply chains.
- Mapping existing standards and initiatives to support a goal can allow companies to build on proven projects rather than reinventing the wheel.
- Customers are eager to be reassured that their products are made ethically and respond better to positive stories of investment rather than risk-mitigation strategies.
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