We do not own or operate any manufacturing facilities. Our branded products are produced by third-party contract manufacturers located in more than 20 countries around the world. In most cases, AEO Inc.'s production comprises only a small percentage of a supplier's total production.
Our Vendor Code of Conduct is based on universally-accepted human rights principles and sets forth our minimum expectations for suppliers. The Code must be posted in every factory that manufactures our clothes in the local language of the workers. All suppliers must contractually agree to abide by the terms of our Vendor Code of Conduct before we place production with them.
In 2010, American Eagle Outfitters, Inc. joined the Fair Labor Association (FLA). As part of that commitment, we are working to bring our Vendor Code of Conduct into full alignment with the FLA's Code of Conduct.
We have a small team of people based in the United States and Asia who are dedicated to improving the lives of garment workers. They spend much of their time visiting factories, conducting inspections, meeting with factory management and speaking with workers.
Every day, our team members gather invaluable real-time information about the workplaces around the world where our clothes are made.
"There are many reasons why I love my job, but top of the list is that I am encouraged to be creative, emboldened to be visionary, and paid to contribute to a fairer, safer and cleaner world."
- May L., Corporate Responsibility
We believe that the workers who make our clothes should be treated with dignity and respect. To that end, we maintain an extensive factory inspection program to monitor compliance with our standards. In FY 2010, we conducted 349 inspections in 329 factories around the world.
"As a compliance auditor, I spend many exhausting hours traveling to and from factories. But when I see positive change in a factory manager's mindset or a better environment for workers, it makes me proud of my contribution and keeps me passionate about my work."
- Rita T., Corporate Responsibility
Factory inspections are just the first step towards improving working conditions. Once compliance issues have been identified, we work with our suppliers to improve policies, processes, and management systems to correct non-compliance problems and help to ensure that they won't recur again in the future.
Few factories, if any, are perfect. Working conditions vary dramatically from country to country, region to region, and factory to factory. Many times, despite our best inspection efforts, factories are still not as good as we would like them to be. The reasons for this are varied and complex. Some of the factors that contribute to poor working conditions in global apparel factories include: unreasonable expectations by brands and retailers regarding cost and speed to market; poor management systems and/or inefficient and outdated production processes by factories; strong industry price competition and uneven enforcement of standards; outdated national labor and environmental laws and poor law enforcement by host country governments; and complex international trade rules that place high import tariffs and/or significant paperwork burdens on imported apparel products.
There are no easy fixes. However, by addressing challenges as they arise and continuing to partner with our suppliers wherever possible, we are striving to bring about an environment of continuous improvement in our supply chain.