How do we ensure that working conditions are good?


Bik Bok is part of Varner, which in its turn has partnership agreements with 139 suppliers in 13 countries. Working with foreign suppliers in the textile industry creates lots of jobs, as well as presenting major responsibilities and challenges.

Actions ensuring good working conditions and providing a fair, safe workplace for textile workers in the supply chain are implemented in partnership with independent organisations alongside Varner’s own measures. Vegard Neverlien, Varner’s Global CSR Manager, is responsible for initiating these measures and ensuring that they’re followed up.


“Varner has worked on the basis of instructive documents from the UN and the ILO, as well as internationally accepted principles, in order to establish ethical guidelines and policies for how we should work, as well as for how we expect our suppliers, factories and partners to work,” explains Vegard, an expert on corporate social responsibility.


TO BE FOLLOWED UP: Anyone producing clothing for Bik Bok must be safeguarded by requirements and guidelines that are followed up by Varner’s own staff. Staff from the Apex Lingerie Limited factory in Kaliakair, Bangladesh are pictured here. Photo: Jibon Mridha, Varner CSR Specialist, Bangladesh

As part of Varner, Bik Bok’s production and supplier cooperation guidelines are based on everyone’s entitlement to good working conditions in accordance with generally accepted human rights, workers’ rights, laws and regulations. Varner’s CSR department works to ensure that both new and existing partners can meet these requirements.

At present, Varner has a number of dedicated staff working with CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility – at regional Varner offices in China, Bangladesh, India and Turkey, our four biggest production markets. These people specialise in corporate social responsibility, working conditions and human rights.

ON INSPECTION: From left; Vegard Neverlien, Global CSR Manager; Sumia Shuchi, CSR Senior Specialist, Varner, Bangladesh; Jibon Mridha, CSR Specialist, Varner, Bangladesh; Stephen Meston, Senior CSR Specialist, Varner India. Photo. Varner

Inspections – both announced and unannounced

Our CSR specialists travel out to the factories and perform regular inspections. These inspections may be either announced or unannounced. Vegard explains how an inspection is carried out.

“The first thing we usually do when we turn up at the factory is hold a meeting with the factory’s management team and other people of relevance to the inspection. We tell them what we’re expecting from the inspection and how we’ll be conducting it. Then we review all the buildings and production premises, indoor and outdoor areas and passageways, plus all machinery and safety equipment.

As the inspection progresses, Varner staff also form an impression of the factory’s work environment and how the people who work there interact.  

“We assess how people work together, what safety is like, whether the way the factory is organised presents any risks, or what procedures are in place – or not, as the case may be – to promote safety and good working conditions. We also chat to people working in the factory as we carry out our inspection, and we hold interviews with both workers and managers. Workers are interviewed in isolated rooms, and in some cases we’ll hold follow-up chats with staff outside the factory, or over the phone.”

The CSR department chats to workers about everyday topics, how things are going for them at work and how things are for them on a general level. Language is a vital factor in this regard, and it’s essential for the inspection to be sufficiently thorough. It’s also important to be aware of local cultures and regulations during an inspection of this kind. That’s why it’s necessary for specialists from the local offices to carry out the inspections.


Checking documents and certifications

The factory’s guidelines, procedures and payrolls, timesheets and payment summaries are all checked by our CSR department. Certifications, permits, licences and approvals from the authorities are also reviewed.

“When an inspection is complete, the factory is given a improvement plan that might involve minor findings that can be resolved easily, or more extensive finds that require extensive efforts to resolve,” says Vegard.

When the matters requiring improvement have been identified, a discussion is held on whether the factory can resolve the findings alone, or whether they need help.

PREFERRED LEVEL FOR PARTNERSHIP: Stringent demands are made of working conditions at the factories before entering into a partnership. Photo: Stephen Meston, Senior CSR Specialist, Varner, India.

Following the inspection

“If point for improvement have been found during an inspection and the factory needs help with those improvements, we can help out by means of a number of ongoing projects and training activities; or else we have a network of organisations that can assist with challenges of various kinds.

“We do all these things to bring the factory up to the preferred level required for partnership,” adds Vegard.

“In some markets, we work in coordination with other companies in the clothing industry as well,” he continues. “One example of this is our partnership with 170 or so other companies in the International Accord, where we’ve joined forces in order to work to the same methods so that we can enhance safety at textile factories in Bangladesh.”

Partnerships of this kind vary from market to market, individual expectations may vary from company to company, and different factories define different standards. 

“The last resort is to terminate our partnership with the factory. This is something we do if the management at the factory is unwilling to make the improvements needed and other solutions have proven impossible to implement.”


Would you like to read more about how Varner works with clothing production, the environment and sustainability? In the Varner Sustainability Report 2022 and the Varner Sustainability Report 2021 you will find everything you need to know and then some. 


You can also send an email directly to [email protected] if there’s anything else you’d like to know about how we work with sustainability.