Expert opinion on possible ways to improve Xiao Deng’s condition (and make Tony’s idea’s work out)

For the past weeks we introduced you to difficulties in the garment factories’ industry, the every day life of a factory worker, Xiao Deng and Tony, a concerned CEO of United Brands for a Responsible Textile Supply chain (UBRTS). The main common problem: violation of labor rights, rules and regulation, lack of training, AND lack of communication channels, etc…. among others.

Helena Perez*, expert in labor rights issues, states that one of the main problems regarding labor rights and Chinese garment factory workers is that sometimes they have no clue about their rights and about grievance methods available for them. As Helena explains:

“If workers don’t know their rights, they cannot actually exercise them. We can for example put in place grievance mechanisms and tell them, you have the right to have your rights respected. But, what are those rights? What does it mean to have the right of not being discriminated? Or to not being sexually harassed. They don’t know the content of those rights, so they cannot complain, they can’t raise their voice and say: “Hey! I am not being respected!” because they don’t know how it should be!”

In order for workers to know about their rights it’s important that they receive training on this. But there are some challenges when it comes to training, like for example lack of financial resources, and the great amount of turnover. Other important challenges are the amount of workers to train and the engagement they exercise during trainings:

“Factories don’t allow you to train only 20 or 30 workers, they will tell you to train 200/300 workers at the same time. So that doesn’t allow you any interaction and it is not participatory. Most workers are used only to listening, not to participate and get involved. But for learning, only when they participate, they get engage, and only when they are engage, they actually learn.”

We’ve been talking a lot about “Training to improve the conditions of the garment factory workers”. But is training alone enough? Helena has a strong opinion about this:

“We have to walk the talk”. It is not enough to tell the workers that they have the right. We have to ensure that we are giving those rights. It is not enough that factories allow you to train the workers, or that they conduct training. They should also have policies and procedures that allow those rights to actually be exercised in practice.” 

Interview with Helena Perez      Interview with Helena Perez


* Helena Perez is expert on the field of labor rights. Helena is specialized in international labor standards and has over 12 years of experience working with international organizations, NGO’s and multinationals. Her expertise lies in helping the improvement of working conditions in supply chains worldwide by means of training and advice on human resource functions and international labor principles and standards in Asia and Central America. Helena has a vast experience in the field, having trained over 1600 professionals from 140 organizations and in 21 countries.

Helena Perez


Reporting = Communication?

In business environment, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming increasingly an essential issue for every stakeholder, hence organizations focus much of their efforts into CSR activities for being reputable. But, is this effort serving the purpose?

Companies are relying on CSR reporting frameworks to improve their credibility, transparency, stakeholder engagement and, ultimately, reputation.  There are multiple frameworks on CSR reporting, however the most widely accepted are: the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) and the Integrate Reporting (IR).  To choose between them depends on what the organization wants to communicate and to whom, the feasibility of implementation as well as the organization’s culture, among other factors.  These aforementioned frameworks disclose the fundamental principles to ensure a good quality report: relevance, stakeholders, communication, comparability and credibility.

reporting framework

Reporting framework

However, all the effort put to comply with CSR reporting frameworks may not be rewarded as these reports are, quite often, barely read by companies’ stakeholders. According to MORI, 70% of the general public still thinks that companies don’t pay enough attention to CSR.

So, why is this happening? Limiting the communication of a company’s CSR to just a report may be an answer to this question. Companies are misleading the purpose of reporting which is showing what the company is doing, whit the purpose of communication which is to make sure that stakeholders know, understand and influence on what the company is doing.

Therefore, although reporting is an important element of communication, communication shouldn’t be only limited to reporting.

Nevertheless, some companies are aware of this situation and are putting big efforts to communicate their CSR policy through different channels and not only through reporting. One example is Unilever, which is a complex multinational with very diverse portfolio of brands and products. Over the past decade they have remained aligned with their long-term focus on CSR and sustainability, attracting investors, customers and partners who prefer to invest “ethically”.

“Unilever, through Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, is leading the way on using social media to communicate about its CSR agenda and to inform about its sustainability program” (Boynton, 2013). Unilever use a wide variety of methods, from video to Facebook to Twitter chats, as well as in-person and virtual strategies such as its online global dialogue, the Sustainable Living Lab, a 24-hour, global dialogue seeking solutions to some complex sustainability challenges.

But social media is only one component of communicating its CSR strategy. Another good example of Unilever’s global recognition for its CSR efforts is the “Unilever Heroes Recognition Program”, a digitally enabled platform to share employee success stories both across the organization and externally.

Unilever also has been one of the first companies introducing an interactive CSR report available online and allowing their stakeholders free access to their internal information. This action has situated them into a position of transparency and as a pioneers in communicating CSR issues.


Unilever communication examples

A Memorable Experience


How do migrant women integrate themselves into their new society? What challenges do they face? To be able to address migrant women, we wanted to found out the answer to these questions. Research was fine but not enough – we decided that the only way to get a real insight is to talk to migrants in person and to people that already work with migrants.

Therefore, we had the great opportunity to meet Augustine from Cameroon. She is the Director of the Private Centre of Social Services NAVA, Director of AIMISOLA project as well as the chairwoman from “ACUVEDA”. Very excited about what she would tell us about her work, she invited us to a place out of the centre of Madrid. Once we arrived at the place, which was like a garage, we met Augustine and were asked to sit down. To our surprise, we were not the only ones that had been invited. Slowly, more and more women came into the door while Augustine prepared the room with colourful, traditional dresses. We found out, that we were in the middle of an event for migrant women and other institutes that work with them. So women with totally different backgrounds entered the garage. After everyone seemed to be there, we sat in a circle and everyone introduced themselves.

IMG_8608Different backgrounds, different experiences, different ages, different approaches – all that in one circle!

The introductions were followed by interesting discussions and questions concerning theintegration of migrant women into the society in Madrid. At some point, Augustine interrupted to bring the discussion to a end because the actual reason why they met was to have breakfast, have interesting exchanges of experiences and fun!

We than got to experience a great international breakfast with them. Everyone had brought some traditional food from their country. From salty to sweet, from hot to cold, there was nothing missing and Augustine made sure that everyone tried everything!


Right after the delicious breakfast, everyone started talking, dancing, trying on the colourful dresses and taking a lot of pictures. No doubt that everyone was enjoying it.

For us, on the one hand, it was an impressive experience to talk to migrant women and listen to their stories. On the other hand, it was great to see how they interact, share, exchange personal opinions, build networks and enjoy such great events.


Overall, this event was all about bringing people with different backgrounds and approaches but the same goal “to integrate migrant women into Madrid’s society”, together. Augustine, with her open and loving character was the one, who made this possible.
Thank you, for letting us being part of it!



Written by L.A.N.A

Communicating CSR for reputation


What we are and what we are seen to be.(what we seem to be) Reputation is just a perception of us. And the more opinions – the more influencers. The way it works is as simple as this:


From appreciation and trust to hatred and doubts. The influence of reputation is undisputable. Though intangible, it increases business profits, promotes growth and minimizes risks in crisis situations.

4According to the world’s largest reputation study RepTrak, aspects related to corporate responsibility (CSR) (citizenship, governance and workplace) form 41% of all dimensions that are proved to influence reputation of any company.

But today companies are focusing their CSR on reporting and are leaving communication of such reports and other CSR activities unregulated which brings CSR communication to be in most cases unattended at all. And here is the common disappointment that after all the hard work a company’s CSR report is kept on the shelf and is barely read by its stakeholders.

But how to make reputation work in your favor? How to use your commitments in CSR properly? Are company’s activities that are key for good reputation?


In our Final Project on “CSR communication for Reputation” we aim to show that having good performance, even in all the three (social, economical and environmental) pillars, is not yet enough to ensure that your company is well perceived. We will open up the idea that only performance that is well communicated to company’s stakeholders has high and aspired influence on their opinion about the company.

In society a company is what it is perceived to be. And this is why our Final Project is about how to communicate your CSR commitments in order to increase your reputation. We feel that there is much more companies can say about their performance. There is much more we don’t yet know. And we think it is time to speak out loud about who you are.

Follow our posts and consult the final material on “CSR communication for Reputation” in order to better perception about your company. Start communicating today by sharing this post. The floor is yours!

CSR in SME’s of Curaçao (part 1): Curaçao Ecocity Projects- Curaloe®

How to write a post without sounding like a disguised marketing blable….I’ll be honest about it. I’m not being paid to write anything about the companies I’m going to write about, starting as of today. It has to do with my sense of pride, pride I feel for having great things resulting from such a small island in the Caribbean. The island of Curaçao.



Before getting deeper into the area of Sustainability and Corporate (Social) Responsibility, CSR, (…social between brackets because I believe this word might be misleading in this context. But that will be another post….), I had the idea that CSR was all about the social aspects. These aspects are important of course but they are just a fraction of all there is possible in the area I’m talking about. The quarter fell, (literally translated from a Dutch saying) when I started reading more about the subject, when helping the company I was working at, to engage more into CSR. To my surprise I discovered CSR was way more than we had thought it was up to that time. As a subject of my master (I left my job, sold everything I owned and moved to Madrid to get my masters degree on Sustainability and CSR), we studied how SME’s can put CSR into practice. When taking a closer look I discovered there are so many companies in Curaçao that actually are “Corporate Socially Responsible”.

As Daniel Truran perfectly explains there are 6 stakeholders that can drive SME’s to engage into CSR practices. In other words stakeholders that make CSR happen in an SME are: Shareholders, employees, environment, communities, suppliers and customers.


To start, let’s analyse which of these stakeholders act as CSR drivers for CurAloe:

Key Success factors of Curaçao Ecocity Projects
Implementation of CSR through Curaloe®

For the past ten years, Curaçao Ecocity Projects has been producing Curaloe®, organic products made of raw Aloe Vera, in the form of facial, shower and body products, insect repellants and a health drink. About 90% of its products are exported, which is a positive development for the island. Currently, Curaloe®products are exported to Aruba, Bonaire, Saint Martin, Suriname, The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Austria, Italy, Spain and Dominican Republic.harvest Prospect export countries are among others Canada, U.S.A., Colombia, Slovenia and Romania. It would be no surprise to see Curaloe® as a recognised brand for organic Aloe Vera products worldwide in a few years.


Main CSR Drivers
I consider Curaçao Ecocity as one of the pioneer contributors to sustainable development in the community of Curaçao. I know there are more, so please read about these in my next posts. One of its main drivers to implement CSR into their business is mainly the environment.
They do this as follows:

This fits into Curaçao Ecocity’s so called “green philosophy”, which entails:

G.A.P. (good Agriculture Practices), designed and implemented throughout the production processes to minimize harmful environmental impacts….and to ensure a responsible approach to worker health and safety” (

The second driver for implementing CSR practices into their business is highlighted in their Green Philosophy: the employee.

B1hUiXIIEAAHCEg Currently there are 28 workers with a permanent contract. For Ecocity, good working conditions, happiness and wellbeing of its employees is key. Ecocity recognises that its workforce is one of their greatest strengths and is committed to making their working experience a truly meaningful and beneficial one. They do this by:

Ecocity considers to implement more employee related CSR practices in the future. Some of which might be for example contracting workers with a handicap or focusing on training programs for school drop outs. The possibilities have to be studied.

With the introduction of an attractive, fresh, modern and ecofriendly package, Curaloe® is a must-buy Caribbean-made gift item. This promises to win public approval and create a love- emotional engagement with customers


A less developed driver is the community. Up to now Ecocity has not had enough financial resources to put in place more community based CSR practices. Ways of engaging with communities is being studied. Sponsoring community activities with Aloe drink is part of current efforts.

In conclusion:
Curaçao Ecocity Projects has achieved mentioned results in just 10 years. It is now being profitable and aims to increase its CSR practices in the years to come. There are still many areas of growth. The Curaloe® product is worth highlighting because on a small island, where CSR is mostly interpreted only as Philanthropy, this company has made important impacts, and aims to become a leading company on the island in terms of CSR good-practices.

Stay tuned for my next posts on the CSR practices of SME’s in Curaçao.


Daniel Truran
Interview with commercial manager Remco Ernandes


Florina`s Journey


Have you ever wondered, what is the story behind the women that you see begging on the street? Many migrants are pushed out of their home countries with the pull of a better life in another. But sometimes it is not as simple as it may seem.

Today, we share the story of Florina:




Florina, the daughter of a cleaning woman and a street musician, grew up in the outskirts of Bukharest, Romania. She went through primary school but could not continue her education as she had to help her parents generate additional income. She found sporadic jobs such as cleaning houses and toilets in public places, but it was not enough to make a living and support her family.

Music has always been her passion, and being influenced by her father, she managed to get a job in a downtown bar in Bukharest as a singer in the hope of making more money to support her family. There she met Theodor, who she end up falling in love with. He promised that he would find her a job in Spain through some friends, and he would join her as soon as she was stable. After a lot of persuasion Florina, because she didn’t want to leave her family, she accepted and met with Theodor’s friends and five other girls at the airport.




Once she arrived in Madrid they requested her passport to formalise the job permits. They then took her and the other girls to a club where against their will forced them to become prostitutes. She did not dare to leave the club, as she was unaware of her rights of living in Spain, despite being European citizen, and was often told that she would be expelled from the country.

After a few months, she discovered that she was pregnant and decided against the odds to take the risk and fled from the club overnight. She was on the streets for a few weeks when some people came up to her and told her about an NGO that helped women that had been sexually exploited.

Today, Florina and her baby are living in a women’s house in Madrid, where she is teaching music to immigrant children.

Unfortunately, Florina’s story is one, of many, who are tricked and forced into a life they wouldn’t choose for themselves. Florina is an example of being influenced by the push- and pull factors which influence why people migrate from their home countries. The reason why we have shared hers with you today, is to encourage you to take a step further and to think of the story behind the people.

Florina is victim of circumstance but at the same time she is not defined by this experience.

Written by the L.A.N.A.

Reflections on a successful and challenging Supply Chain Seminar

“This has truly been a good seminar. I’m satisfied with the attendance, which is way more than our last one 5 years ago. We have had people from different brands and audit companies present. During our seminar, I got in touch with some external potential members who signed up, because of the fact that they are so small, and are in urgent need to improve their supply chain. Belonging to a large organization that helps in doing this, is one of their main desires.

But when considering the problems we’ve spoken about in our previous seminar, I think there hasn’t been much improvement, especially because we have noticed a tendency of factories to hide their real situations. This has been the case when some of accredited audit companies carried out announced visits. During the unannounced audits we were surprised to hear how the real situation was. So I feel that we have still a long way to go.

As a result of the panel discussions that were held yesterday and also this morning, we noticed also that there are repeated issues with inconsistent information, long working hours and low wages. In spite of the mechanisms that we have in place to avoid these practices from happening, we notice that the audit practices are mere a plastic shield. Nobody questions if they solid enough or if they have to be improved. For the next 5 years we will design new methodologies, according to the consultation sessions we have held for the past 2 days, in order to improve tools and mechanisms. But there is something missing. We need to be able to reach to the root of the problems, but there has to be a better way to discover what these problems really are.

Some member of ours reinforced something that we’ve been aware of all along, which is that lately consumers are the ones pushing towards a more sustainable supply chain, or not? Well yes, because they are more aware of bad practices and want to ensure that the clothes they wear don’t come from a sweat shop. But if brands are aware of this matter, when reaching out to factories to improve the working conditions, to later communicate their efforts to the outside world, is it Public Relations or is it real risk control management? And no, because of the existing fast fashion; consumers express their wants and needs, which are responded by brands, by putting pressure on for example the factories. The discussions between members in our audience were agitated at this point. Some people felt attacked, others misunderstood…..

During the lunch break, a brand representative came up to me, and expressed his grief because they want to do the right thing, but just doesn’t have enough resources and budget to carry out regular audits. Besides, he misses some information which is relevant for him on for example what factory workers need and how he can improve their condition.

I better get back to the stage now. During the 5 minutes closing speech I’ll point out

that our priority is to build a mechanism, a channel to allow the brand to receive direct information; real voices from the workers. The workers should be the mirror of the factory’s labor conditions. They are the ones that can provide direct and impartial information. But at the same time, they should know what they have the right to!  This is the message that I want to get across at the end of the seminar. We need to work towards a method to manage risk on a reliable way.

The way I’ll present this idea will motivate our members, I’m sure!”

– Thoughts by Tony Sundermann

Tony Sundermann, CEO of the Multi Stakeholder Coalition: United Brands for a Responsible Textile Supplychain (UBRTS), is concerned after the feedback and consultation sessions he has received during the seminar. Something has to be done to improve labor conditions in factories, and one thing is for sure; the workers are the ones that need to be heard. What tool or mechanism will Tony propose?

Find out more next week.


“Heroines of the Supply Chain”

Juan Juan Chen

Eva Capellán

Rocío Dañino

Esther Sedney

What’s happening to Xiao Deng’s (小灯) light? Is it shutting down?


Xiao Deng

Xiao Deng: Little shining light

“It’s already 5:30 in the afternoon. I was hoping to go to my room and have a relaxing weekend, watching my favorite t.v. series. But we just got a rush order and I’ll have to stay until maybe 9 o’clock tonight. Since a client of us has promised a new line of clothes in Spain by next week, we have to be real quick. But hey!, more hours mean more money, so I’m cool with that.

These past days have been a little hard though. I tripped on a pile of clothes last week and hurt my knee. Besides, my lower back and shoulders hurt so much! These 3 years in this factory have taken their toll on my body. I haven’t been to the doctor because I don’t have an insurance. In times like these, I wish I had become the elementary school teacher I always wanted to be. But after my graduation from high school, I figured I better start working to support my family. I’m sad and feel down. I’m not living up to what my name means: Little shining light. I better go back to work now. My 1,5 hour during lunch break is over, and we still have so many blouses to sow today.

In between the sowing, I heard some colleagues commenting about our salary. They find it too low. I really don’t know what to think about that. I wonder if it’s true. But I’m afraid to ask. They wanted to complain about this. To who, they have no idea.

I’m tired, but happy. After reaching the factory this morning at 7:40, and being here for more than 14 hours, I can finally go back to the dorm, to my 4 roommates. I’m looking forward to playing Candy Crush and Angry Bird on my phone. Oh, I just remember. I can try out Tian Tian Fuweng, the new game I downloaded yesterday. Tian Tian Fuweng means Everyday Millionaire.

Tian Tian Fuweng.

That’s what I’ll be one day, hahaha. But before that, I want to start a family. 22 years; the perfect      age for that! Today, I ran across Yinda, from Pingyao, my hometown. He works at the packaging department. He’s so nice, and kind. The two of us could make a better future together.”


A better future includes good working conditions too! What Xiao Deng doesn’t know yet is that she has the power to change and improve these working conditions. By knowing her rights and raising her voice she can have the real future she deserves!

Could playing games possibly help her in this quest?!

Stay tuned!

“Heroines of the Supply Chain”

Juan Juan Chen

Eva Capellán

Rocío Dañino

Esther Sedney

The Era of Collaboration: A Powerful Revolution

There are many good things happening in the World. Even if we see the Television news or read the traditional news papers and end up totally depressed, we just have to open our eyes a little bit to discover that there are actually a lot of good things to celebrate and be happy about.

One of my favorite “good news” is that we are shifting from an era of competition to an era of collaboration.

Share. That is the key word. We just have to open Facebook and look at that small, yet powerful, blue button that allows us to share information, knowledge and fun stuff with other people.


Younger generations see sharing as a natural thing. It is very simple; if you read something useful, you share it with other, so that everyone who is interested in the topic, can increase their knowledge about it. However, I don’t think is crazy to say that this sharing mentality was not always common, and that one of the most predominant behaviors of the last century was Competition. From biology, to business to politics and nations, everything was conceived as “a war” where only one wins.

On the contrary, nowadays Collaboration is starting to become a predominant behavior. Words that hardly existed 2 decades ago, such as Cross Sector Partnerships, Multi stakeholder alliances, Business coalitions, Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding, Coworking Spaces, or Co design, are now being more and more used, and are becoming trends. These transformational collaboration patterns are now shaping our reality.

This new philosophy has led to the creation of organizations that are designed around a culture of generosity. Big companies [1]are starting to have co creative and crowd sourcing initiatives in order to engage with costumers and society and gain access to creative ideas for them and for the world. And more important, small enterprises and social enterprises are being born with this philosophy, through collaboration and for collaboration, working together with others to tackle local and global problems. These initiatives will play a key role in solving the world’s future challenges.


[1] IBM, Unilever, Nike, etc.


Collaboration = New Revolution

Collaboration and technology have allowed our ideas to travel around the world and “have sex” like never before. But, why is this relevant?

As Matt Ridley said in a TED conference[1], the “meeting and mating of ideas” is what contributed to the evolution and progress of the human race.[2]  Interconnection of people, communication, sharing of ideas and collaboration, are the base of technological progress.

If we want to solve the world’s problems, we must collaborate and share, so ideas can combine and solutions can be found.

Conversation bubbles

Conversation bubbles

The potential of Crowd sourcing

Crowdsourcing is the process of obtaining ideas (or content) by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, especially from an online community. [1]

Today’s technology (internet, mobile phones) have showed us that we human beings are more than just passive consumers; we like to be proactive, to create, to apply our talents, to engage with a task and a purpose, to enter into “a state of flow”[2], do something and share it with the world for others to enjoy. The spectrum of collaboration is wide: From people that create “memes”, to people that participate actively in platforms of solutions for global challenges (civic value).

As Clay Shirky states, [3], the combination of technology, collaboration and human generosity (motivation to share our talent and free time) is making possible that ideas that contribute to solve social problems, travel very fast around the world, in order to be replicated. People are willing to engage and help. He calls this magical mix “cognitive surplus”, which has a huge potential since there are more than 1 trillion hours a year of participatory value to be used.

Can you imagine what could happen in the world if every person dedicated 1 hour a week to contribute to solve a global problem just by giving ideas??

So, to summarize, we are at the beginning of an era based on collaboration (instead of competition); this is great for sharing and combining ideas; technology is on our side and we have a lot of spare hours to use. If you Google “crowdsourcing” you can clearly see that is next to problems, community and solutions. Let us use those hours in a positive way through collaboration, for collaboration; to find the solutions we need to create a better world.




[2] Martin Seligman, founder of Positive Psychology movement talks about “flow” in his books “Authentic Happiness” and “Flourish”.




[2] Labor specialization and trade gave us more time to do other things, think about other matters and have more ideas, which led us to prosperity. The exchange of ideas between different cultures, are at the base of innovation.


A Journey for Nothing ?


Migration Picture 1

Source: The Guardian 


As most of you have probably noticed, the media these days is full of headlines talking about the migration problem we are facing in Europe, the recent tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea being one of the biggest migration tragedies to date. The continent is confronted by a rapidly escalating migration crisis – governments both National and Regional (EU) are struggling to cope with this problem and have difficulties finding a general consensus over the shared responsibilities and actions to be taken.




                   Source: BBC


But have you ever questioned yourself why this is happening? Do you know why millions of people are deciding to take this deadly journey? Do you have any idea how they are treated once they survive they journey? Is migration really a problem…..or is it an opportunity?


immigrant women



With these questions at the back of our minds we embarked on our own journey to get answers. Throughout the research we have done, some of the stories have left emotional scars and some have been sources of inspiration and this has encouraged us to dig deeper and get a better understanding from the perspective of those who have undertaken it, what circumstances the migrants live in, how they are treated throughout the journey and also what their life looks like after finally receiving the “golden ticket.”

Our aim is to develop a tool to assist migrants as they embark on their new life. We do not just want to help them thrive but also want to be part of their journey towards a better life – the life they were initially aiming for.


written by Anna, Annette, Lucia and Nada

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