WRAP Began a Probe into India’s Page over Alleged Human Right Abuse

The United States (US) based leading apparel industry watchdog has started a probe into an allegation of a human rights violation by an Indian garment company, Page Industries Ltd. (Page), an exclusive partner and supplier of American innerwear manufacturer, Jockey International (Jockey).

The watchdog told Reuters that it began its investigation after Norway’s $1 trillion sovereign wealth fund dropped its investment portfolio for Page over the concerns related to the rights abuses at Unit-III, one of Page’s Jockey manufacturing sites in Bengaluru. Meanwhile, the Unit-III Page’s factory in Bengaluru currently has about 1,000 workers and the company had reported nearly $400 million in revenue in the fiscal year ended March 31.

Page called the allegation as “outrageous” and denied any wrongdoing against its employees. Replying to a question about the Worldwide Responsible Accredited Production (WRAP) probe, Page stated that it had enough proofs to “flatly disproves” the allegations. Following the news of the WRAP probe, shares in Page dipped as much as 3.2% on India’s National Stock Exchange on Wednesday, October 15, 2020, while it had gained 0.8% share price early in the morning.

WRAP Probe on Page

WRAP, which issues approval certifications to apparel companies on a facility-by-facility basis, has the authority to conduct a probe in case of the emergence of credible concerns and began its investigation into the matter in late September, as per a source told Reuters. Bengaluru-based Page is the exclusive licensee for Jockey wear in India and six other countries including the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Page also has a partnership with a Britain-based swimwear maker Speedo though it supplies in a smaller capacity.

In an email to Reuters, WRAP spokesman Seth Lennon stated that the violation of workers’ rights could result in losing the factory’s certificate and license. Lennon explained, “Should the facility refuse to remediate such non-compliances or should the remediation efforts be insufficient, WRAP will revoke the facility’s certification. In case any non-compliances noted prove to be so egregious as to leave no room for remediation, WRAP reserves the right to immediately suspend the facility’s certificate.”

A WRAP certificate is primarily required by garment factories in countries including India, Bangladesh, China, and Vietnam, as it assures that the clothing factories have to adhere to certain ethical and safety policies. Page’s Unit-III, where the violation was allegedly taking place, has its operation certification until November 15.

Outcome of the WRAP Probe

Being a founding member of WRAP, Jockey told Reuters that it would “closely monitor” the outcome of the Page’s internal evaluation of the allegations. The source said that the WRAP is likely to announce the outcome of its probe in the coming weeks, with the support from Jockey and Page. Meanwhile, WRAP denied commenting on the details as it said that the matter was under an ongoing investigation.

Page said it was cooperating with the Norwegian wealth fund’s Council on Ethics, the body which excluded Page from its investment portfolio after its investigation, “assessed the risk that Page is contributing to or is itself responsible for systematic abuses of internationally recognized human and labor rights”.

In a new development, the Council on Ethics of the Norwegian wealth fund stated in a statement that it had accepted Page’s request for a meeting and would consider if they need to initiate another investigation to assess their recommendation on Page.