Known for Abercrombie & Fitch, Abercrombie kids, Hollister Co.
Abercrombie & Fitch Co. (A&F) is one of the world’s largest fashion retailers. It employs approximately 40,000 people across its operations and has more than 800 brand-dedicated stores spread across its Abercrombie & Fitch, abercrombie kids and Hollister Co. brands. In 2019, the company had $3.6 billion in revenue.
No publicly available information was found regarding A&F’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, processes or management systems, or how it engages with stakeholders to manage and improve its gender impacts. The company does, however, focus on gender-related issues in the supply chain through involvement in the HERproject in partnership with BSR (Business for Social Responsibility).
The company has a gender-responsive grievance mechanism that reflects an understanding of gender roles and the inequalities women face in the workplace, for instance guaranteeing confidentiality, allowing concerns to be anonymously reported to someone other than the direct supervisor via a telephone line, and ensuring non-retaliation and protection of the aggrieved party. While supply chain workers do not have access to A&F’s grievance mechanism, the company requires its suppliers to establish their own grievance mechanisms for workers to report concerns without fear of retaliation.
No information was found to indicate that A&F 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 the company requires its suppliers to take corrective action if these gender-related issues are identified.
A&F considers the fair representation of women in the workplace and publicly discloses the gender composition across various levels of leadership at least annually. With a workforce that is 60% female, the company currently maintains gender balance – 40-60% women – among its board members (42%) and senior executives (50%). However, 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.
A&F promotes gender equality in leadership by offering its women employees professional development support through initiatives such as WOMEN IN IT, a network that focuses on retaining women within the company’s IT department. In the supply chain, it is involved in the Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.) programme, which provides technical training and life skills to women workers. A&F planned to roll out the programme in partner factories in Cambodia at the end of 2019, though there were no details found about the company’s progress. Neither was information disclosed concerning whether A&F actively procures from women-owned businesses or takes specific actions to increase the procurement spend directed to these businesses.
The company addresses the systemic discrimination that women face by requiring suppliers to have a non-discrimination policy that explicitly protects pregnant and married women workers. While there was no information found regarding recognition agreements with local trade unions or collective bargaining agreements currently in place, A&F requires suppliers to prohibit intimidation, harassment, retaliation and violence against trade union members.
While A&F reports on its gender pay gap in the United Kingdom and France, thereby complying with national regulation, no information was found on how the company specifically addresses the global gender pay gap across its entire operation to ensure its women employees receive fair compensation for their work. Regarding family-friendly benefits, A&F does not disclose a global policy of paid primary or secondary carer leave. Neither was information found on whether it promotes employees’ return to work after leave, allows for flexible work arrangements or offers childcare support.
There was no information found on whether A&F requires its suppliers to offer formal contracts. However, to eliminate conditions that can lead to forced labour, the company is committed to responsible recruitment in the supply chain and requires suppliers only to subcontract to registered businesses that subscribe to its code of conduct. While the company encourages suppliers to provide workers with a living wage that covers their basic needs and provides discretionary income, it only requires them to pay the minimum legal standard. No information was found regarding whether suppliers are required to provide paid carer leave or other family-friendly benefits.
No information was found regarding whether A&F covers additional costs surrounding maternal and mental health services or the sexual and reproductive health needs specific to its women employees.
Concerning the health, safety and hygiene needs of women workers in the supply chain, the company requires suppliers to provide their workers with personal protective equipment and adequately lit factory facilities as well as training on ergonomics and hazardous materials, though women are not explicitly mentioned in this context. There was no information to suggest the company monitors the gender breakdown of workers’ injuries, fatalities, turnover or absenteeism rates.
A&F does not require suppliers to have an on-site clinic with a credentialed health provider. It does, however, support its suppliers in providing access to health information and services that take into account the specific health needs of women workers. For example, as a part of its partnership with BSR, the company participates in the HERhealth programme. This offers health education and training to women workers on topics such as menstruation and family planning, with the aim of improving their access to health services and their awareness of reproductive health issues.
In the workplace, A&F seeks to prevent any form of harassment, including sexual harassment, through its code of conduct. It applies this code equally to all employees, customers, suppliers and third parties. However, no details were found regarding violence and harassment training or the company’s effective remedy for violence and harassment grievances in the workplace, such as not requiring private arbitration or silencing agreements.
In the supply chain, A&F requires suppliers to prohibit abuse and harassment, including sexual harassment. Furthermore, the company requires its code of conduct to be made available to all workers and that managers, supervisors and other relevant workers receive training. A&F also provides support to its suppliers to prevent violence and harassment in the supply chain, for example by participating in the HERrespect programme run by BSR. The programme promotes positive gender relations in partner factories through trainings and support groups on topics such as gender norms, violence and relationships at home and in the workplace as well as skills building to reduce violence.
A&F strives for inclusivity in its marketing imagery and has taken specific actions through brands such as Hollister Co. to run campaigns celebrating different body shapes. However, no information was found regarding how the company addresses non-discriminatory practices in marketing and advertising, for example by committing to avoid harmful gender stereotypes or ensuring gender-responsive communications and engagement with its customers to support gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Little information was found regarding how A&F currently drives gender equality and women’s empowerment in the communities where it operates. In addition to its involvement with the BSR-run HERproject, which supports women in global supply chains through workplace-based interventions on health, financial inclusion and gender equality, the company plans to implement the Personal Advancement & Career Enhancement (P.A.C.E.) programme to provide life skills and technical training to girls in Indonesia by the end of 2020.
A&F has responded to the COVID-19 pandemic by donating 10,000 bottles of hand sanitiser in partnership with Operation Warm to support relief efforts. The company is also maintaining its commitment to The Trevor Project’s work by continuing to offer customers the opportunity to round up their purchase amounts in stores in the United States and online to fund vital services that support LGBTQ youth at this critical time.
Furthermore, the company has adjusted its normal practices in accordance with guidelines from the US government, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. For instance, A&F has implemented enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures, including wellness checks, and adjusted its packing practices to ensure the safety of its associates and packages by allowing for appropriate social distancing.