How does Bik Bok look after the people who work at the factories? 


Bik Bok is part of Varner, a family-owned Norwegian company. Varner has no factories of its own, but it works in partnership with around 140 factories in 13 countries in Asia and Europe. Varner has set up regional offices in its four biggest production countries –  China, Bangladesh, India and Turkey – in order to look after the people we work with. 

Our local presence allows us to work closely with suppliers to make improvements. Crucial focus areas in respect of workers’ rights and safety are highlighted by carrying out regular risk analyses. Countries, regions, extraction of materials and production processes are all mapped in these risk analyses, and the risk areas may vary depending on the production country. 


Varner is committed to maintaining respectable conditions in the supply chain and helping to bring about improvements when violations of workers’ rights are identified. Vegard Neverlien, Global CSR Manager at Varner, was able to explain further. 

“If we can see certain areas where there’s more of a risk associated with breaches of proper work and taking unfair advantage of workers, we won’t necessarily work in order down the supply chain. Instead, we prefer to go directly to the link where the risk might be encountered,” says Vegard. 

Vegard’s responsibilities include initiating actions aimed at vulnerable production areas. 

“One example of this is the textile mill sector, where we’ve encountered challenges relating to exploitation of young women,” he adds. “The textile mill sector is essentially three links down the supply chain, but we’ve chosen to place more emphasis on this link due to our awareness of the risk.”  

Find out more about the textile mill sector, discrimination and women’s rights in the textile industry.    

RIGHT TO BE HEARD: All employees at Varner’s partner factories are entitled to make their voices heard. An initiative has been implemented giving workers the opportunity for representation through trade unions or democratic elections. This photo shows one of our partner factories, Four H Group in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Photo: Farzana Afroz, Merchandiser, Varner, Bangladesh. 

The right to organise as part of a trade union 

Varner has set a public objective for itself, with the aim of ensuring that all workers have fair representation in their workplace by 2025. To attain this objective, we’re working to ensure that workers are organised if they so wish. 

“They don’t necessarily have to be organised in a trade union,” says Vegard. “Workers also have the opportunity to elect representatives through democratic elections in the workplace, and these elected representatives can then meet with management on a regular basis, on behalf of the workers. These meetings with management may involve discussions about challenges, complaints and input, and so this allows workers to talk about matters that concern them so that common solutions can be devised,” says Vegard. 

RIGHT TO SAFE WORKPLACES: Health and safety at factories is an important focus area. Debonair Group, one of Varner’s partner factories, is based outside Dhaka in Bangladesh. Photo: Jibon Mridha, Varner CSR Specialist, Bangladesh 

Health and safety

Health and safety is an important focus area as we work in an industry involving lots of people. The manufacturing industry is labour-intensive, and there is a risk of challenges where lots of people all work together in production. 

“When it comes to health and safety, Varner is working with factors such as building safety, fire safety, electrical safety and safety associated with machinery and protective equipment. Good knowledge and systems are also crucial when it comes to factory safety. For instance, factories may well have first aid managers who are thoroughly trained and apparent to workers so that they can identified easily in the event of a problem.” 

When factories are busy, there’s a risk of their escape routes and emergency exits being blocked by goods and equipment, so such challenges are followed up by maintaining a systematic approach to safety and good procedures, protocols and divisions of responsibility.  

TO BE FOLLOWED UP: Pay levels are a risk area that’s monitored closely. The production status of one of the managers at Apex Lingerie Ltd in Bangladesh is being updated here. Photo: Photo: Jibon Mridha, Varner CSR Specialist, Bangladesh 

Pay practice and pay level procedures 

Varner has procedures in place for pay practices and pay levels. These procedures are followed up and checked at regular intervals by our CSR department, both in Norway and at the local offices in the production countries. Furthermore, a project and dialogue group focusing on living wages has been established in partnership with other brands and Ethical Trade Norway. 

  • Pay practice: We inspect documentation relating to factors such as wages paid, bonuses, overtime, payslips and parental leave.   
  • Pay levels: We demand as an absolute minimum that all our factories pay the minimum wage. Many of our suppliers offer pay above this level, but we can see that more needs to be done in order to raise the levels still further. 

Low pay levels further down the supply chain are a risk area, and cotton farms and raw material extraction are examples of links where challenges are faced at present.  

“Follow up links that are further down the supply chain can present a challenge,” explains Vegard. “But by buying certified cotton through Fairtrade and GOTS, for instance, we know that requirements are in place when it comes to for conditions for the people working in cotton production,” says Vegard.   

REQUIREMENTS FOR REGULATED WORKING CONDITIONS: Factory workers’ employment contracts are followed up by Varner staff at the regional offices. A worker at Apex Lingerie Ltd, Varner’s partner factory in Bangladesh, is pictured here removing stains from textiles. Photo: Jibon Mridha, Varner CSR Specialist, Bangladesh 

Employment and overtime 

Varner requires all workers in the supply chain to be in a form of employment that’s regulated by a formal contract. This employment contract has to include information about the employment terms; pay, working hours, notice periods and other aspects that have to be regulated. The length of employment must also be indicated clearly in the contract; a permanent position, a part-time position or a temporary position for a shorter, specified period.  

“We also keep an eye on what benefits workers receive, and make sure this is followed up in view of their contracts,” says Vegard. “These benefits may include maternity leave, overtime pay, contributions to social security schemes and fair wage settlement if their employment is terminated.” 

A lot of overtime work can present a challenge at times when factories have lots of orders that they need to complete. Varner carries out regular inspections at the factories that we work with so as to keep track of the use of overtime. We also follow up on documentation and carry out supplier surveys.  

“We’ve taken action to prevent our purchasing practices creating pressure on overtime in production,” explains Vegard. “These measures include booking capacity at the factories early on and placing orders at times when the factories have less to do. This is something we have to work on constantly, an area where we can develop and become even better.” 

Find out more about how we approach this risk area under Purchasing Practice on pages 47 to 49 in Varner Sustainability Report 2021.  


Discrimination and women’s rights 

Varner regulates requirements for and expectations of suppliers by contract; and one of these conditions is that all workers and employees must be treated the same. Vegard explains that the starting point differs depending on the country, and that cultural factors have a major part to play.  

“The markets in which we operate present challenges in respect of equal treatment regardless of gender, religion or ethnicity. We want to work with suppliers and partners to create awareness of this issue and find ways to resolve it. Women are particularly vulnerable to discrimination, harassment and gender-based violence.”  

To address these challenges, Varner is working in partnership with various organisations working to promote women’s rights in the workplace, including Social Awareness and Voluntary Education (SAVE) in India and the Joint Ethical Trading Initiative (JETI) in Bangladesh.  


Find out more about the company’s work on discrimination and women’s rights in the textile industry.  


Would you like to know more about Varner’s work with clothing production, sustainability and the environment? In the Varner Sustainability Report 2022, the Varner Sustainability Report 2021 and the Varner Sustainability Report 2020 you will find everything you need to know, and a bit more.  


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.