Poppy Barley screens all its factories for positive working conditions, including a living wage (Poppy Barley pays, on average, six times the the region’s minimum wage), full-time permanent employment with health care and pension benefits, fair working hours, paid vacation and sick leave, and ongoing training and opportunity. We work closely with our factory partners, and maintain ongoing and open communication with the people who make our products. Because we have such an active role in our production, we are able to get to know our skilled artisans, and closely monitor our factories to ensure that there are absolutely no human rights violations (e.g. child labour, discrimination for pregnancy, forced overtime etc.), which, unfortunately, is not an industry standard.
We build long-term relationships with all our factories and provide consistent work, rather than changing suppliers to find the cheapest contracts for manufacturing. This helps our factories provide permanent, secure employment and allows us to produce high quality products with longevity. Beginning in 2017, inspired by fair trade factories, we implemented a wage premium of 0.5% of sales that goes directly to the artisans at our footwear factories. (See our 2017/2018 Sustainability Report.)
As we continue to grow our operations, we have begun the process of looking for additional factories and artisans to produce our footwear and leather accessories. To maintain the quality of our products, while also ensuring that our workers are paid and treated fairly for their work, we established a checklist and questionnaire for vetting prospective factory partners.
How We Vet Prospective Factories
All Poppy Barley factories are screened with the following Code of Conduct tool.
Furthermore, we screen factories by visiting the factory, interviewing the factory owner and select employees, and by auditing a random selection of payroll and personnel files.
Factory Code of Conduct Tool
- Do the factories employ anyone younger than 16?
- What is the employment structure of their employees?
- What is the average wage paid to a shoemaker? Is this before or after tax?
- If a shoemaker is paid by piece, on average, how many hours per week does the shoemaker need to work to reach the average wage as provided above?
- Do employees receive any benefits other than wages (e.g. health, employment insurance etc. including benefits mandated by the government)? If yes, please detail.
- What hours and days of the week do shoemakers work? What is the minimum vacation provided?
- Is overtime voluntary or mandatory?
- Does the Factory use any forced or trafficked labour?
- Do all employees have the right to enter into and to terminate their employment agreements?
- Are employees subject to any of the following harassment, abuse and disciplinary practices?
- Physical violence
- Verbal violence
- Psychological abuse
- Sexual harassment
- How structurally sound is the building? Has it had any recent inspections?
- How often are the production machinery, equipment, and factory tools tested and maintained?
- Does the factory have clear fire exits and is it equipped to deal with a fire as required by law?
- Has there been any major accidents in the five years? (major being described as causing a non-trivial injury)
- Are any of their tanneries certified by the Leather Working Group? If yes, what is their level of certification (gold, silver or bronze)?
- Where do the cows come from to make the leather (country and region of origin)?
- Do any of the tanneries offer vegetable tanning?
- What happens to the by-products that result from making the leather (the chemicals leftover and the water)? Are the chemicals removed from the water? How are the chemicals stored? Is the water cleaned and recycled?
- Are you aware of any legislation in this area that guides the behaviour of tanneries (For example in Mexico by law tanneries must clean and recycle the water they use)?
- Please provide any other information about the environmental or sustainable practices of the tanneries.
The Poppy Barley Factory Code of Conduct Tool was developed based on the International Labour Organization core labour standards and the laws in the countries where we operate. These are the minimum requirements we seek from all factories.
Where It All Started
Poppy Barley began its manufacturing in León, a city of two million people located in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, approximately three hours north of Mexico City. While we have also expanded our production to ethical and sustainable factories in Brazil, many of our products are still made in León.
Often referred to as “The Shoe Capital of the World,” León has been making shoes since 1645, and it is this centuries-old history of craftsmanship that, after a global search—from Argentina to Italy and China— convinced us to set up production there.
León’s thriving footwear industry has attracted many immigrants from Italy, Spain and Argentina over the years, and the result is a vibrant fusion of food, culture, and the best practices in shoemaking.
a 36 km supply chain
León has one of the world’s leading footwear manufacturing clusters: all of the necessary production supplies are concentrated within a 36 km radius.
The city holds 3,394 shoe manufacturers, 388 leather goods manufacturers, 300 suppliers (machinery, outsoles, textiles, synthetic materials, glues, fittings, etc.), and 696 tanneries.
The city of León, and the partnerships with our factories, makes it possible for Poppy Barley to bring our customers the highest quality materials and what we believe to be the most comfortable footwear in the world.
Our Team in Mexico
We have a small office and team based in León. Working closely with our shoemakers, we make regular visits to each factory multiple times per month, if not per week. Our Mexico team oversees our production and product development, ensuring every pair of shoes and all leather goods we produce meet strict standards of quality control before shipping to Canada and the US.
Follow our Mexico Operations Manager, Laura, on a typical day in the business of shoemaking.
Our Mexico Operations Manager, Laura.
Mexico factory artisans, Don Rogelio and Alfonso.
Our Canadian team, Jane and Esther, visiting Fernando’s factory in Mexico.