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.
The Jo-In Project was a collaborative effort of six leading international labor rights and code implementation organizations, including the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), Fair Labor Association (FLA), Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), Social Accountability International (SAI), and Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). The Jo-In project focused on enhancing collaboration among these organizations to identify best practices in the field of code implementation.
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.
The Zeitz Foundation (ZF) was founded in 2008 with the intention of “achieving the highest standards in sustainability through the balance of conservation, community, culture and commerce in privately managed ecological areas”. It became the first nonprofit entity to affiliate with the Fair Labor Association in 2009 as a Participating Company.
The ENABLE Project is an FLA initiative targeted toward the agricultural sector. Activities include: agricultural monitoring; remediation; capacity building activities; and stakeholder engagement.
The stakeholder engagement component is an ENABLE initiative that seeks input from local and international experts on agricultural monitoring, remediation and capacity building efforts. These consultations are organized with the overall objective of enhancing the effectiveness and relevance of the work the FLA is undertaking in the agriculture sector.
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 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.
In January 2012, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) launched a study of soy and corn seeds in Brazil to develop a better understanding of the local conditions, practices and labor standards in the country's agriculture sector. The study was conducted with an independent external expert, and data was collected through meetings with stakeholders including Instituto Ethos, a leading CSR organization in Brazil; and union representatives from Sindicato dos trabalhadores rurais de Minas Gerais in Serra do Salitre and Sindicato de trabalhadores rurais de Uberlandia of Uberlandia.
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.