Reputation Management for a Global Retailer

Following the2013 collapse of the Dhaka garment factory in Bangladesh (also known as the Rana Plaza collapse) a group of global fashion retail companies partnered with NGOs, policymakers, and local experts in Bangladesh to develop a series of safeguards to protect the health and safety of workers.

The strategy put in place by the retailer’s executive team retailer and Ludke used a proactive communications strategy to reinforce the retailer’s commitment to operating its global supply chain in a safe, responsible, and transparent manner.

A Proactive Response Strategy

In 2018, as one of the agreements established to ensure implementation of the safeguards neared its expiration, an activist NGO launched a campaign against one of the fashion retail companies to pressure it to sign on to a significant multi-year extension of the agreement supported by the NGO. However, the agreement provided limited transparency into the legal and financial obligations of theNGO – a contradiction to its stated desire of greater supply chain openness by the retail industry. The NGO claimed the fashion retail company was not committed to the health and safety of workers in the factories that supplied the clothes and accessories sold in its stores. Using social media, public protests at the retailer’s stores, paid social media and print advertising, and outreach to other activists, the NGO attempted to pressure the retailer to sign the new extension agreement.

Ludke worked with the retailer’s communications and sustainability teams to devise a strategy and create content to publicly reinforce the company’s commitment to the safe and ethical treatment of all workers in its supply chain, including those in Bangladesh. The retailer had a strong story to tell. It was transparent in how its supply chain was managed and sought ongoing feedback on how to improve its operations. The executive team regularly traveled throughout the world to conduct in person visits to facilities throughout its global supply chain to see first-hand how its products were assembled.

Moreover, its participation in a set of labor, welfare and safety standards – as robust as those proposed by the activist NGO – in Bangladesh was unwavering.

The Outcome: A Strengthened Reputation

The course of action was a far-reaching communications strategy that was used to proactively engage a variety of audiences – employees, investors, partners, and customers –to demonstrate in concrete terms the retailer’s adherence to best in class labor practices at all levels of its operations.

The implementation of the communications strategy turned what could have been a negative – an activist campaign by an NGO designed to damage the brand, reputation, and bottom line of the company – into a positive: an opportunity to share a positive message to important audiences that demonstrated its commitment to doing the right thing for workers throughout its global operations.