Supply Chain Innovation

Recognizing Consumers’ Role in the Global Supply Chain

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

In February, FLA President & CEO Auret van Heerden participated in a workshop – Company Responsibilities in Countries with Human Rights Challenges – organized by the Business Humanitarian Forum and the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

The event was held against the backdrop of the recently published draft report “Guiding Principles for the Implementation of the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework” by the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General on Business and Human Rights, Professor John Ruggie.

Auret discussed FLA’s role in improving working conditions around the world and providing the public with information it can use to make informed purchasing decisions. Auret stressed the fundamental contradiction between the buying and manufacturing ends of the chain: the buyer expects the supplier to deliver cheap products and services while respecting working standards. However, global competitive pressures within supply chains are making it very hard for suppliers meet both these, often conflicting, demands.

Consumers – often unknowingly – drive these pressures through their demand for ever-lower prices. We may not realize or want to acknowledge that the lower prices of the products we love to consume are ultimately paid for by workers’ wages. But we have to take responsibility for our purchasing decisions, recognizing our own role in the global supply chain to ensure sustainability and protect workers’ rights.

Read the full workshop report here.


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