Having just returned from my recent university tour, I am more encouraged than ever by the passion and drive I saw in students to resolve labor and human rights issues worldwide. As they always have, students and universities play a crucial role in campaigning against any form of social injustice… as we did in fighting the apartheid movement in South Africa to fighting sweatshop labor conditions today.
Rain greeted us on the next morning as we made a dash to Penn Station to catch our train to Wilmington, Delaware and the University of Delaware. At U of D, I had lunch and a stimulating discussion with a group of students eager to learn more about global supply chains and labor rights issues. Students (in behavior consistent with my travels to other schools) showed a refreshing openness to discussing the complexity of labor issues and their interaction with the market-economy and global supply chains.
Cotton is a commodity used across the apparel industry - clothing, footwear, headwear, etc. Concerns in the cotton production sector include child labor, worker health and safety due to the use of pesticides, and other violations of human, labor or environmental rights. In some countries, state-sanctioned forced child labor is used to pick cotton. Apparel companies leading the CSR movement need to broaden their focus and examine sourcing of raw materials to make sure that their factories are not using “dirty” cotton, tainted with violations of worker rights.