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.
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.
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.
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.
India is currently the second-largest producer of sugarcane and of sugar in the world, after Brazil, and sugarcane production in India supports 50 million farmers and their families.
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.
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.
In June 2013, the Dutch government, civil society organizations, and industry representatives collectively developed an action plan to improve the social, structural, ecological and economic conditions in global garment and textile supply chains.