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Auret Van Heerden to step down as FLA president later this year

Prominent workers’ rights advocate has led Fair Labor Association since 2001

Auret van Heerden, a prominent advocate for workers’ rights and improved working conditions around the world, will be stepping down as President and CEO of the Fair Labor Association at the end of this year. Originally hired as the FLA’s Director of Monitoring in July 2001, van Heerden was named Executive Director in December of that year and was designated President and CEO two years later.  He has provided overall strategic and policy direction for the FLA, carried out a broad range of advocacy and outreach efforts, and undertaken a variety of special projects intended to strengthen the organization’s code of conduct, improve its methodologies for assessment and remediation, and expand its involvement beyond the apparel and footwear industries into such fields as electronics and agriculture.

“Auret is a visionary leader and a passionate advocate, and he has expanded the scope and impact of the FLA over these past 12 years as we have increased both the range of fields in which we are promoting workers’ rights and our capacity to bring about sustainable compliance with our strengthened code,” said Kathryn Higgins, the former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Labor who serves as chair of the FLA Board of Directors. “We especially have benefited from his insistence that we focus on compliance measures that identify root causes and are sustainable; that we develop a more sophisticated understanding of supply chains; that we engage with a broader range of stakeholders; and that we aim for the highest possible standards of accountability and transparency in all that we do.”

van Heerden said, “I have been committed to defending rights at work since I was a student and will continue to do so. My twelve years with the FLA provided a unique opportunity to extend that work into the global supply chain. I fully support the mission of the FLA but want to move on to pursue a number of innovative projects in the field of human rights and business.” 

van Heerden came to the FLA from the International Labor Organization (ILO), where he was coordinator of the Action Program on Social and Labor Issues in Export Processing Zones.  A native of South Africa, he was a two-term president of the National Union of South African Students and an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa before being forced into exile in 1987.  He joined the ILO in 1989 and worked in the Equality of Rights Branch on their anti-apartheid program.  After the election of the first democratic government in South Africa in 1994, he served as Labor Attache in the South African Permanent Mission in Geneva. 

The mission of the FLA is to combine the efforts of business, civil society organizations, and colleges and universities to promote and protect workers’ rights and to improve working conditions globally through adherence to international standards.  The FLA conducts independent monitoring and verification to ensure that its Workplace Standards are upheld wherever FLA members source their products.  The FLA Board consists of six representatives from each of its three principal constituencies and an independent chair.  The Board’s next meeting will take place on July 30 and 31, at which time it will begin the process for selecting a new President/CEO. 


About the Fair Labor Association: The FLA combines the efforts of socially responsible companies, civil society organizations and colleges and universities to protect workers’ rights and improve working conditions worldwide by promoting adherence to international labor standards. The FLA holds companies accountable for monitoring their own supply chains and conducts independent assessments to ensure that the FLA Code of Conduct is upheld. The FLA also acts on and resolves third party complaints and special investigations about workers’ rights abuses at specific factories. Through public reporting, the FLA provides consumers with credible information to make responsible buying decisions. FLA is governed by a 19-member Board of Directors that includes an independent Chair and eighteen members equally representing leading universities, labor and human rights organizations, and companies. 

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