Cambodian Community Fund

How we like to give back

Ouros is a small manufacturing company which out-sources garment production to small - home based - workshops in the south of the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.

When we first set up the business - amid the global Covid pandemic, our intention always, was to produce extremely high quality sports garments and, because of our small production scale, incorporate as many thoughtful design features and ideas as we could - to place us at the cutting edge both in terms of quality and practicality. 

It was never our original intention to be a super, ethical manufacturer, however - it soon became obvious that, with little additional effort, how easy it was to achieve.

The Cambodian garment manufacturing industry employs over 600,000 people, makes up 16% of the country’s GDP. It’s worth in excess of $8 billion and, in years past, has gained a very bad reputation for the exploitation of its workforce. Although in recent years, things have improved significantly, a mainly female staff, work gruelling – 12 hour shifts, six days a week, usually for less than $50. Add to this a dangerous, one hour ride in an open cattle truck each end of the day – it soon becomes clear that, for less money than they need to maintain their families, they sacrifice their entire life to the work regime.

A sad fact is that, these wages are pinned low because of how price sensitive the crowded clothing marketplace can be in the west.

We don’t use huge factories with hundreds (or thousands) of machinists - and crippling output targets. We use small ‘cottage’ producers. Our manufacture takes place in private houses by small teams of machinists – many of whom we know personally. There may be one woman working alone, in her own home on one product. It means she can be there with her family – perhaps children or elders need care. She chooses what time she starts, she chooses what time she finishes. There are no output/time targets – other than the common sense of knowing what is acceptable – her responsibility aided by a great, personal working relationship.

Whilst it is not a good policy to “just pay them more” as this leaves staff with expectations and could make them increase their lifestyle and spending beyond what would normally be affordable. It is however worth us paying a premium for skilled machinists who can work unsupervised, and continue to produce garments to the exacting, quality standards we know our customers expect.

" Having spent six years in Cambodia, living without westerners, in the suburbs of the capital – Phnom Penh, I have gained a hugely valuable insight into the daily life and culture of this fabulous nation. Living the lifestyle and speaking the language affords me privileged access and I share their feeling of Family and Community. Prior to any involvement in garment manufacture, my first role when I came to the country was for an NGO who supports families who have faced forced eviction from their city homes – into the countryside and locale of huge, out of town garment factories. It gave me in-depth knowledge of how families are torn apart by this workload and, importantly, the most effective ways to distribute funds."   Dan Phillips

How the OUROS Community Fund works

How it effects you

  • We know we are not the cheapest producer on the market but hope you will agree that, by small effort from you and us alike – we can make a huge difference, one family at a time. Just by making your purchase, you have already supported the community here by providing work in a pleasant environment which places family life above that of work requirements. Thank you.

  • In addition, 2% of your purchase price is donated directly into our community fund.

  • As an added incentive for us all to work harder, if your transaction is over £100, we will double this donation to 4% of the total.

  • We offer you the opportunity – at your discretion – to round up the total at the checkout. 100% of this addition goes directly into the fund.

  • Should there ever be a situation where we need to offer you a refund, firstly – you are entitled to 100% of your purchase price. We will however ask you if you are happy to waive any amount that has gone to the fund. This is entirely at your discretion.

How the community benefit

We have already outlined the flawed policy of paying everybody more. As in every society, particularly one with no social security system, different people need different amounts at different times. Perhaps a school bill to help a child who really needs a university place. An unexpected hospital bill – even a broken moped.

Distribution of funds can be a difficult decision – who is most in need?

We don’t think we are the right people to make these decisions. For this we use a model which I have seen work with great success.

  • The fund will make available varied grants at variable times. This takes away any expectation from someone knowing they are going to get more money.

  • The dates and amounts will be announced to the work force – and THEY decide between themselves who needs help. I have seen this wonderful system of empowerment work to great effect.

  • Nobody will be given large sums of cash. For example; should a hospital or school need paying – we go and pay on their behalf. This avoids money being misplaced toward all-too-common vices - drink, drugs and gambling.

  • In addition to our own team, we have identified various NGOs who have been instrumental in our setting up of the company. As previously mentioned, assisting homeless families and also offering support, treatment and employment opportunities to young people with addiction problems. As I write this, the vast number of organisations helping deal with the knock on effects of the Covid pandemic which has seen communities, industry, and all its ancillary chain suffer complete shutdown. In a country with such a high proportion of the population below the poverty line – its repercussions will be felt for years to come.

For the avoidance of objectifying the poor, you won’t see photographs of ‘look how great we are’ donations. For transparency however, we will regularly publish a list of beneficiaries on our website.

Dan Phillips

Director of Operations, Cambodia.