Globalization has led to the emergence of low cost, efficient (and perhaps risky) supply chains spanning multiple countries. Sourcing regions exhibit a wide range of economic, political, social, labor and environmental standards, which – combined with heightened public awareness – means that full traceability of a product and its components is likely to become a consistent demand made by governments, civil society organizations, and consumers. In response, companies must make supply chain mapping and product tracing a standard business practice.
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) commissioned two independent external experts – Corinne Adam, an independent consultant, and Lynda Diane Mull, Executive Director and President of the International Initiative to End Child Labor – to conduct a task and labor risk mapping study of hybrid corn and sunflower seeds production in Argentina.
In 2011, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) launched a study of corn and sunflower production to develop a better understanding of the agriculture sector in Romania. The study was conducted in collaboration with a representative from the international NGO Human Resources without Borders, and an independent Romanian auditor named Mariana Petcu. The aim of this research was to understand the production processes of corn and sunflower seeds and to map the labor risks with regards to labor laws and FLA’s Workplace Code of Conduct in Romania.
The Central America Project was launched in collaboration with FLA Participating Companies - including adidas Group, Nike, Inc., Gildan, Liz Claiborne, and PVH Corp. - to develop long-lasting mechanisms and tools to produce measurable improvements in workplace conditions in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The project primarily focused on the issues of discrimination, harassment and abuse, and freedom of association in the apparel assembly or maquila sector.
The HeRmeS-R project was a two-year initiative (2007-2009) supported by the European Commission under the Leonardo da Vinci program and a grant from the Swiss government. Eight European partners joined together in a multi-stakeholder collaborative approach to improve the human resource and CSR standards and policies of subcontractors across many industries. Stakeholders created training programs to equip participants with the knowledge and tools needed to train executive staff.
These programs covered corporate social responsibility broadly, including such topics as:
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) conducted this task and risk mapping study in India in 2004 to assess the labor risks in cottonseed farms, with a focus on child labor; to map potential internal and external workplace monitoring systems; and to map local remedial programs. The study consolidates data from two assessment visits made in April 2004 and October 2004 to Andra Pradesh (AP) and Gujarat, two of the largest hybrid cottonseed producing states in India.
Vietnam plays an important role in the apparel and footwear sector, and at the time of the launch of this project, was the second-largest country of production for FLA Participating Companies. In 2011, 355 suppliers employing more than 800,000 workers manufactured products for FLA Participating Companies in Vietnam.
Over the last few years the fashion sector has seen an impressive push towards “green” and “ethical” manufacturing and sourcing. While there are a growing number of initiatives certifying the production standards for some of the raw materials, little information is available for labor standards in the rest of the supply chain. Labor standards are not systematically evaluated in many global supply chains, often meaning that wages and working conditions are pushed downward in a race to the bottom to enable consumers to purchase cut-rate fashion.
A recent study commissioned by FLA and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) found ongoing and rampant wage discrimination and underpayment of wages in hybrid vegetable and cotton seed production in India. The study, conducted by Dr. Davuluri Venketeswarlu and Jacob Kalle, was conducted in four Indian states where hybrid seed production is largely concentrated – Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Maharashtra – and involved interviews with nearly 500 workers on 200 seed farms and discussions with growers, civil society organizations, government officials and others.
Many companies have supply chains extending beyond factories to informal settings where accessories or embellishment processes are completed. People working in the informal sector – artisan clusters, home workers, micro-producers and marginalized communities – are particularly vulnerable given the unregulated nature of those workplaces. Companies do not always have the means or tools to monitor them, and are unaware of the social impact of their intervention on those groups.