SHINE publishes paper on factory workers’ well-being

Photo courtesy of Levi Strauss & Co.

2 min read

The Sustainability and Health Initiative for NetPositive Enterprise (SHINE) at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has published a paper, “A New Approach to the Well-being of Factory Workers in Global Supply Chains: Evidence from Apparel Factories in Mexico, Sri Lanka, China and Cambodia,” which was one of only eight selected papers chosen for publication by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in their new report “Measuring the Impacts of Business on Well-being and Sustainability.”

Most studies on factories in the supply chain focus on minimal safety and health at work, or on compliance audits with minimal standards. The audit criteria are set to tackle violations only, rather than to understand the processes of improvement, efficiencies, and the effectiveness of corrective actions.

While the relationship between health and work is not new, the measurement of health and well-being as a way to evaluate the working environment, in line with business outcomes, is a new approach to evaluating and promoting social impact and health in the workplace.

Applying definitions of well-being at work that draw from decades of research in occupational health and safety, work stress and job strain, human flourishing and socially supportive communities, SHINE conducted a comprehensive assessment of worker needs from the perspective of workers themselves. Worker health and well-being were considered in relation to various business outcomes, such as turnover and job satisfaction.

SHINE teamed up with Levi Strauss & Co. and the brand’s vendors (supplier factories) in Mexico, Sri Lanka, China, and Cambodia to collect data from approximately 9500 workers on factory working conditions, worker well-being, and business outcomes, to demonstrate the mutual dependency between worker needs and business needs.