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Hobbs and Whistles owner first to commit to human rights due diligence across transport supply chain

29 Mar 2023
Press Release
  • TFG Brands London signs landmark agreement with the International Transport Workers’ Federation.
  • TFG, owner of brands including Hobbs and Whistles, is the first fashion company to institute a raft of measures to protect transport workers’ rights. 

LONDON The fashion group which owns brands including Hobbs and Whistles, has signed a first-of-its-kind agreement with the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), to co-operate on preventing, mitigating and addressing human rights risks for transport workers in its supply chain. 

TFG is an online and retail fashion group comprising Hobbs, Whistles, Phase Eight and Inside Story. It is the first fashion retailer to partner with ITF, to cooperate on attempts to eradicate labour rights abuses from its entire supply chain – including shipping, freight, and warehouse workers.

Many fashion companies are making sustainability commitments, but labour violations and worker exploitation in the supply chain are often facilitated by subcontractors that fly under the radar of typical corporate due diligence structures. According to a recent investigation, freight subcontractors in Europe exploited a lack of checks and controls during the pandemic, resulting in many drivers being paid as little as €100-600 per month for weeks full of 48-hour non-stop shifts.

Negligence in accurately assessing a supply chain for human rights due diligence leaves companies vulnerable to financial and reputational damage, as a commitment to ethical working practices is the third most important suitability factor to consumers. 

The memorandum of understanding (MOU) between TFG and ITF will see both parties work together to examine labour rights risks across all directly operated and subcontracted transportation operations by TFG, and respond in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the ILO Tripartite Declaration of Principles Concerning Multinational Enterprises and Social Policy, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and ITF’s Supply Chain Principles.

TFG has also committed to meaningfully engage with the union throughout the entire transport-related human rights due diligence process, and the MOU establishes a technical working group with ITF.

The impact assessment done by ITF as part of the MOU provides TFG with a more accurate picture of its supply chain, and especially its transport workers’ working conditions. ITF conducts quantitative on-the-ground analysis, speaking to workers across the supply chain about their lived experiences. 

Governments are increasing their scrutiny of exploitation in the supply chain. In 2021, Germany passed the Supply Chain Due Diligence Act and Norway, the Netherlands, and France also have similar laws. The EU is deliberating over an even more robust Supply Chain Law, that was introduced in February 2022.

TFG has already implemented heightened standards for working conditions across its supply chain. Throughout Covid-19, TFG ensured that seafarers aboard vessels that moved their goods were able to crew change safely in line with their contracts. TFG led in this approach, at a time when some crews found themselves trapped on board vessels for over 24 months, as much as 15 months over contract.

Steve Cotton, General Secretary of ITF commented:

“Everything we own is carried to our doorstep or to our local store by a transportation worker. But the exploitation which occurs on a daily basis along the supply chain is unconscionable, especially by brands who market themselves as ‘sustainable.’ Unchecked, these practices will have huge financial and reputational consequences for sustainable-first fashion brands.

”TFG London has taken the bold and necessary steps to address the human rights issues that occur from factory to customer. We commend their leadership and encourage all brands to work with unions to expose the unseen human and labour rights abuses in their supply chains.”

Justin Hampshire, Chief Executive, TFG Brands London commented:

“ITF has been an invaluable partner of TFG London since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, initially collaborating to address the seafarers’ humanitarian crisis and helping to shine a light on an area of our supply chain where we had limited visibility.

“TFG London is very pleased to sign this joint MOU, setting out a cooperation framework focusing on identifying, mitigating, and addressing transport-related risks in our supply chains.  We also hope that our support for ITF will in a small way, contribute to improving global working conditions and encourage other industry peers to engage further.”


About TFG: TFG London is part of The Foschini Group Limited (TFG), a leading South African retail business. TFG entered the UK market in 2015 with the acquisition of Phase Eight, Whistles, Hobbs and the addition of Inside Story to our impressive portfolio of the most successful, premium womenswear and homeware brands in the UK.

About the ITF: The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is a democratic, affiliate-led federation of transport workers’ unions recognised as the world’s leading transport authority. We fight passionately to improve working lives, connecting trade unions and workers’ networks from 147 countries to secure rights, equality and justice for their members. We are the voice of the almost-20 million women and men who move the world.

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