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Thursday February 9th, 2023
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Riverpack engages with women employed in China with the support of Chanel

Riverpack, a committed player on CSR issues, has designed and deployed a multi-year program to promote gender equality and support women's empowerment at its paper bag production site in China.

Paper bags are manually assembled on the Riverpack site, mostly by women. Female employees are generally exposed to their own quality of life and occupational health issues. These issues are also specific depending on the geographical and socio-cultural location of a production site.

In line with the strong awareness of the importance of CSR, particularly society, riverpack, and its commitment to gender equality, the desire to work on a program targeting the quality of life at work of women at the factory in China has become established. Designed with the support of Chanel, and piloted at Riverpack by Alexandre Fontaine, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, it has been the subject of close cooperation with field teams in China.

Employee health at the heart of priorities: The programme was tailor-made with the support of BSR, Business for Social Responsibility, Chanel's strategic partner on gender issues in the supply chain. The objective of BSR's HERhealth approach is to train women employed in the factory on issues related to family planning, reproductive and maternal health (contraception, pregnancy, pre-/post-natal care), prevention of diseases (HIV, breast cancer, etc.), quality of life and occupational health and safety (at-risk positions and unsuitable for pregnant women).

The program began in early 2019 with a diagnosis to assess women's knowledge of their own health. The aim was then to advance their knowledge by relying on the principle of peer to peer learning, which is peer-to-peer learning. Of just over 200 women out of the plant's 500 employees, 12 voluntarily committed, as Peer Health Educators (PHE), to an 18-hour training course spread over 6 months, delivered by BSR. With the support of the management, sensitized and involved, each then set out to train 20 to 30 of its colleagues in monthly sessions, allowing them to develop the knowledge of nearly 200 employees, including male volunteers, on the issues of health safety and quality of life of women at work, and on gender equality.

The trainings were relayed on site by dynamic communication on the part of the management and the CSR manager of the factory: display of information and events, forums of expression, dashboards, supervision and accompaniment of PHE in the animation of a specially dedicated WeChat network... This pro-active dissemination of information quickly established a constructive dialogue with employees on gender equality issues, which is intended to extend beyond the end of the program in June 2021 and to establish a lasting anchor 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 to take stock of the progress made and the benefits achieved in the medium to long term. Employees' level of knowledge about their health, their ability to care for themselves, their level of personal consideration are all factors that improve their well-being and therefore their motivation, accountability and commitment. The monitoring of these indicators established a correlation with a decrease in absenteeism and turnover during the duration of the program, demonstrating the importance of the valuation of human capital on the site.

Inspiring and egalitarian management practices: based on the positive findings and results of the HERhealth approach, the collaboration with BSR in April 2020 extended to the deployment of a HERmanagement pilot programme, developed with the support of Chanel. The aim of the programme is to increase the site's management's awareness of gender equality issues, ultimately helping to promote the integration and professional development of 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, teams believe that recognition and education are key factors in women's empowerment, gender equality and opportunity. The indicators we have been following over the past two years, such as absenteeism or turnover rates, are a concrete example of the quality of the dialogue established, the work and the progress made towards greater professional equality. This is thanks in part to a clear, regular and transparent communication between employees, employees, site management and company: the mutual benefits are immense and we are very proud of how far we have come,"said Frédéric Poinas, Managing Director of Riverpack.

"Within the AFD Group, Riverpack's parent company, the CSR approach is historic and mature. Riverpack demonstrates this through its recent EcoVadis assessment, with Platinum status. It was essential for us to go even further and fully exercise our societal responsibility. This is a strong expectation of Chanel, with regard to its preferred suppliers. The HER project is a beautiful challenge, which we hold dear to take on concrete actions: to be in the DO rather than in the DIRE. It is more delicate, longer, since it concerns the Human. We are grateful to Chanel for trusting us to lead this project, and above all happy to show our respect for our employees, contributing to a quality of life at work individual, which radiates on a collective scale,"said Pierre Fayard, President of the AFD Group.

"CSR is in our DNA," says Poinas. CSR issues are an integral part of our corporate strategy, formalized and led for three years by Alexandre Fontaine, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager, joined by Alexandra Fayard. A recent graduate in Land Economy from The University of Cambridge, her knowledge of environmental economics and law will accompany the international development of the AFD Group and Riverpack in particular, while limiting their impact. Our vision of CSR is naturally realized by a sustainable approach to packaging, from its conception: certified paper from responsibly and sustainably managed forests, paper incorporating a share of recycled fibers, ropes and ribbons in bio-sourced and renewable materials, substitution of filming with water-based protective varnish etc. At Riverpack, however, we approach CSR far beyond the material approach and consider in depth the social and societal impact of our business within the local industrial fabric. It is this vision shared 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 women employed at our production site in China. »

"The CSR manager at the plant himself distributes information brochures on available measures, rights and remedies, facilities and nearby health contacts. It is gratifying to see, through the testimonies, the usefulness and more, the cruciality of this approach, which drives us all,"notes Frédéric Poinas.

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