Known for Pantaloons, Louis Philippe, Van Heusen, Allen Solly, Peter England
Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail Limited (ABFRL) is the largest clothing retail chain in India. It emerged after the Aditya Birla Group consolidated its Aditya Birla Nuvo Limited (ABNL) Madura Fashion division and ABNL’s subsidiaries Pantaloons Fashion & Retail and Madura Fashion & Lifestyle in May 2015. The company employs more than 25,000 people across its operations and has 3,031 brand-dedicated stores in over 750 cities worldwide. In 2019, the company had $1.2 billion in revenue.
No publicly available information was found regarding ABFRL’s overall commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment across its full value chain. The company does not disclose how it integrates these issues into its governance structure, strategy and processes or management systems. However, it engages its employees on gender issues through surveys and focus group discussions concentrating on career sponsorships and mentoring, resource groups, review of policies and infrastructural support to advance workplace diversity.
ABFRL’s grievance mechanism allows employees to submit a written complaint directly to the head of the organisation. Furthermore, the complaints committee is composed of a gender-balanced review body chaired by a woman. However, the grievance mechanism does not include additional gender-responsive elements, for example ensuring user confidentiality, prohibiting retaliation and allowing verbal submissions of complaints via a telephone line. Furthermore, no information was found regarding whether supply chain workers have access to this grievance mechanism or whether suppliers are required to establish their own grievance mechanisms for workers to raise gender-related or other concerns.
ABFRL does not disclose information to demonstrate that it screens for gender-related issues among its suppliers as part of its audit processes, such as sexual harassment or discrimination against women based on their pregnancy and marital status. Furthermore, no information was found regarding whether suppliers are required to take corrective action if these gender-related issues are identified.
There is little information available to indicate that ABFRL considers the fair representation of women in the workplace. With a workforce that is 52% female, women are underrepresented on the company’s board of directors (17%) as well as among senior executives (10%). No information was found regarding the gender balance of the company’s senior or middle management, its workforce across occupational function or the gender breakdown of employee turnover or absenteeism rates. However, ABFRL addresses the systemic discrimination that women face by offering professional development opportunities with specific support for women. For instance, the company has established the Springboard leadership development programme for mid-senior level women and the Onus Programme focused on capacity development among young women professionals working for Aditya Birla Group.
In the supply chain, there is little information regarding how the company addresses the systemic discrimination that women face, for example by requiring suppliers to have a policy in place that explicitly protects pregnant and married women workers. Though there was no information found regarding recognition agreements with local trade unions or collective bargaining agreements currently in place, ABFRL requires its suppliers to respect their workers’ right to join associations and bargain collectively.
No details were available about whether ABFRL actively procures from women-owned businesses or takes specific actions to increase the procurement spend directed to these businesses.
No information was found regarding how ABFRL specifically addresses the gender pay gap across its global operations to ensure its women employees receive fair compensation for their work. In terms of family-friendly benefits, the company offers parental leave to its permanent employees and maternity leave to part-time employees but does not specify how many weeks are allotted. It also provides childcare facilities, flexible working hours and remote working arrangements along with support programmes such as Phase Back, Transition Guidance and Career Management Support, though details were lacking regarding what these programmes entail.
In the supply chain, the company requires suppliers to extend their workers formal contracts. However, there is no information on whether suppliers are required to pay a living wage or provide key family-friendly benefits to support workers’ unpaid care burden.
ABFRL discloses little information on how it addresses the unique health and well-being needs of its women employees. The company covers some mental health services by offering employees sessions with a psychologist and access to Santulan, the Aditya Birla Group’s online counselling service. It also mentions the Healthy Pregnancy programme, though no details were available regarding what maternal health information or services are included.
No information was found regarding the company’s efforts to address the specific health, safety and hygiene needs of women workers in the supply chain, such as toilets separated by gender and adequately lit factory facilities, or to provide workers with a gender-responsive, safe and healthy work environment, such as information and services regarding maternal, mental, and sexual and reproductive health. While the company has established a process to address absenteeism among workers in the supply chain, the gender breakdown of absenteeism rates is not disclosed.
ABFRL takes active steps to prevent violence and harassment in the workplace through its Prevention of Sexual Harassment (POSH) framework, which is required under Indian law, and the Vishaka guidelines. Detailed investigations of sexual harassment complaints are conducted by the designated POSH committee members within a defined amount of time. The guidelines also specify that POSH committee members are a majority female, including the chairperson, and undergo a refresher training led by an external facilitator once a year. These guidelines are available to employees on the company intranet and communicated via email and posters. Furthermore, ABFRL adopted the Policy for Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace to provide an effective complaint redressal mechanism if there is an occurrence of sexual harassment. It also conducts interactive sessions for all the employees to build awareness about this policy and its provisions.
However, no information was found on how ABFRL prevents violence and harassment in the supply chain. Neither were details found regarding the company’s effective remedy for violence and harassment grievances reported by its employees or supply chain workers, such as not requiring private arbitration or silencing agreements.
ABFRL has not made a public commitment to address how gender is portrayed in its marketing campaigns. However, the company has taken specific actions to avoid discriminatory marketing practices. For example, a campaign run by its brand People seeks to raise questions about gender inequalities in India.
ABFRL drives support for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the communities where it operates through a number of initiatives that focus on girl’s education and skills development. For instance, its Kaushalya Centre aims to develop industry-specific skills among rural youth such as data entry, beauty and haircare, retail and basic tailoring. The company also has initiatives that raise awareness on reproductive health and screen women for cervical cancer.
ABFRL has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by shutting down its entire retail network in line with the nationwide lockdown announced by the Indian government. The company has committed to implementing the highest standards and protocols on safety and hygiene to make stores safe for employees and consumers when they reopen. Moreover, ABFRL has worked closely with the Indian authorities to convert its manufacturing facilities for the production of personal protective equipment, supplying more than 500,000 units to date to meet the surge in demand by frontline healthcare workers.