Ethical Performance
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BSR publishes Asian supply chain results

May 2008

A website has been set up by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) to promote its HERproject, which aims to meet the general and reproductive health needs of millions of women employees in global supply chains.
The HERproject site – the HER standing for Health Enables Returns – highlights work being done in China, India, Pakistan and Vietnam.

It shows companies and non-governmental organizations how improving the health education of women factory workers and their access to medical services achieves better returns on investment, increases productivity, and reduces absenteeism and staff turnover.

Aron Cramer, BSR’s president and chief executive, said: ‘This project holds immense potential to enable economic and social advancement for millions of women. It focuses attention on a critical, and overlooked, question – how to improve the distinct health needs of women who are producing goods for export. We are proud to look at global manufacturing through the prism of women’s health, which has proven to be a key to economic development.’

BSR gives as an example its pilot programme with the Nordstrom clothes retailer, in which women in China’s Guangdong province received health education through peer awareness training. The programme placed special emphasis on HIV and Aids infection and prevention.

The organization reports that the awareness of 5000 women was improved, while factory managers expressed strong support for the programme and showed their approval of the resulting employee engagement.

However, a big obstacle is the attitude of most bosses, who question the value of investing in reproductive health programmes for workers because employee turnover is high and because they believe young women are sexually inactive.

BSR responds that women in China are particularly vulnerable and are prey to hepatitis B, pelvic inflammatory disease, and breast and cervical cancer. It points out that family planning and reproductive health education are limited, there is little awareness of HIV and Aids, and nutrition is poor. In addition, many female workers are shy about reproductive health.

Much of the funding for the HERproject comes from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, including $200,000 (£101,700) given in February for the next two years.  

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