Riverpack, a company committed to CSR issues, has designed and implemented a multi-year program to promote gender equality and support the empowerment of women at its paper bag production site in China.
Paper bags are assembled by hand at Riverpack's site, primarily by women. Female employees are generally exposed to quality of life and health and safety issues that are specific to them. These issues are also specific to the geographical and socio-cultural location of a production site.
In line with Riverpack's strong awareness of the importance of CSR, in particular societal CSR, and its commitment to gender equality, the desire to work on a program targeting the quality of life at work for women in the factory in China was obvious. Designed with the support of Chanel, and led by Alexandre Fontaine, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Riverpack, the program was developed in close cooperation with the field teams in China.
The health of female employees is a key priority: The program was designed with the support of BSR, Business for Social Responsibility, a strategic partner of Chanel in the consideration of gender issues in the supply chain. The objective of BSR's HERhealth approach is to train women employees in factories on issues related to family planning, reproductive and maternal health (contraception, pregnancy, pre/post-natal care), disease prevention (HIV, breast cancer, etc.), their quality of life and their health and safety at work (high-risk jobs unsuitable for pregnant women).
The program began in early 2019 with a diagnostic to assess women's knowledge of their own health. The goal was then to advance their knowledge based on the principle of peer to peer learning. Of just over 200 women out of the 500 employees at the plant, 12 voluntarily signed up as Peer Health Educators (PHEs) to attend an 18-hour training course provided by BSR over a period of 6 months. With the support of the management, who were made aware and involved, each of them then set about training 20 to 30 of their colleagues during monthly sessions, enabling them to develop the knowledge of nearly 200 employees, including male volunteers, on health and safety issues and the quality of life of women at work, and on gender equality.
The trainings were relayed on site by dynamic communication from the plant's management and CSR manager: posting of information and events, expression forums, dashboards, supervision and support of PHEs in the animation of a specially dedicated WeChat network... This pro-active dissemination of information made it possible to quickly establish a constructive dialogue with employees on gender equality issues, which is intended to continue beyond the end of the program in June 2021 and to become permanently anchored in the site's managerial culture.
Concrete and measurable results: in order to measure the positive impact of this project, indicators have been defined and monitored in order to draw up a medium to long-term assessment of the progress made and the benefits obtained. The level of knowledge of employees about their health, their ability to take care of themselves, their level of personal consideration are all factors that improve their well-being and therefore their motivation, their responsibility and their commitment. The monitoring of these indicators correlated with a decrease in absenteeism and turnover over the course of the program, demonstrating the importance of human capital development at the site.
Inspiring and egalitarian managerial practices: on the strength of the findings and positive results obtained by the HERhealth approach, the collaboration with BSR was extended in April 2020 to the deployment of a pilot HERmanagement program, developed with the support of Chanel. The objective of the program is to increase the awareness of the site's management to issues related to gender equality, which will ultimately promote the integration and professional development of female employees. Based on in-depth questionnaires and collaborative sessions between employees and management, the program resulted in an action plan to further strengthen gender equality in internal procedures and protocols.
"At Riverpack, the teams are convinced that recognition and education are key factors in the emancipation of women, gender equality and equal opportunities. The indicators we have been monitoring for the past two years, such as absenteeism and turnover rates, are concrete proof of the quality of the dialogue established, of the work and of the progress made towards greater professional equality. And this is thanks, among other things, to clear, regular and transparent communication between employees, site management and the company: the mutual benefits are immense and we are very proud of the progress made.says Frédéric Poinas, general manager of Riverpack.
"Within the AFD Group, Riverpack's parent company, the CSR approach is historical and mature. Riverpack has demonstrated this through its recent EcoVadis assessment, with Platinum status. It was essential for us to go even further and fully exercise our social responsibility. This is a strong expectation of the Chanel House, with regard to its preferred suppliers. The HER project is a great challenge, which we are keen to take up through concrete actions: to be in the DOING rather than in the SAYING. It is more delicate, more time-consuming, since it concerns the human being. We are grateful to the House of Chanel for having trusted us to lead this project, and especially happy to show our consideration for our employees, by contributing to an individual quality of life at work, which radiates on a collective scale.says Pierre Fayard, President of the AFD Group.
"CSR is in our DNA, underlines Frédéric Poinas. CSR issues are an integral part of our corporate strategy, which has been formalized and steered for the past three years by Alexandre Fontaine, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, joined by Alexandra Fayard. Recently graduated in Land Economy from Cambridge University, her knowledge in environmental economics and law will support the international development of AFD Group's activities and Riverpack in particular, while limiting their impact. Our vision of CSR is naturally reflected in a sustainable approach to packaging, right from the design stage: certified paper from responsibly and sustainably managed forests, paper incorporating a proportion of recycled fibres, cords and ribbons made from bio-based and renewable materials, replacement of lamination with water-based protective varnish, etc. At Riverpack, however, we approach CSR well beyond the material approach and consider in depth the social and societal impact of our activity within the local industrial fabric. It is this shared vision with Chanel, for whom we are a privileged partner, that brought us together and pushed us to go even further with the implementation of a project centered on the women employed within our production site in China.
"The plant's CSR manager himself distributes information brochures on the measures available, rights and recourse, and the health establishments and contacts accessible nearby. It is gratifying to see, through the testimonies, the usefulness and even more so, the crucial importance of this approach, which motivates us all.notes Frédéric Poinas.