Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital
Dutch factory owner Piet Holten, president of Pactics, a manufacturing company in Cambodia, is creating a modern, conscientious model for manufacturing companies in Southeast Asia.
Cambodia has the second highest number of non-government organizations (NGOs) which aim to stimulate local employment by supporting workshops that make goods for tourists. Unfortunately, Holten says the “NGOs are trying hard to do good. They have a good heart, but in the end the effect is minimal.”
Pactics manufactures soft cases and microfiber cleaning cloths for glasses, sunglasses and goggles. Their clients include several high-end brands including Oakley, Rayban, and Tiffany. Contrary to the unfortunate standard of manufacturing in Southeast Asia, Pactics places a high-emphasis on employee well-being as well as the environment.
The naturally lit, wheelchair accessible factory derives 40% of its power from solar panels. Power is supplemented with a backup generator, which runs on biofuels. Rainwater is collected and used for plumbing purposes and there is a purification plant for drinking water on site. The workforce, which is mainly young women, receives a daily subsidized lunch, four months of paid maternity leave, health insurance and accident insurance. The facility also contains a daycare with rooms for nursing mothers and a first-aid room with a staff nurse.
Interestingly, Pactics pays its employees based on productivity, a practice which has allowed factories to pay their employees as little as possible historically. However, Pactics staff not only have a minimum guaranteed income of $125 a month, far more than the national average of $1,000 a year, but they also receive 44 days of paid vacation per year. The business also offers genuine upward mobility, with training programs that not only address basic things like machinery operation, but also relations within the workplace, sexual harassment education and prevention (Pactics has a very strict policy against harassment), and hygienic use of restrooms.
Pactics also contributes $50 per year toward each employee’s education and pays for half the cost of a crash helmet for each. The crash helmet is a necessary safety accessory for the workforce, as they commute primarily via motorized scooter in a country notorious for its highly dangerous traffic.
Creating an efficient and happy workforce means that employees are more likely to stay and improve, allowing the factory to run better and the staff to become better acquainted with this type of work. With the factory running smoothly, Holten says his next mission is to convey the importance of responsible business management to his clients, in hopes that they will make more active choices to support ethically run factories.
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