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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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:
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.
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.
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 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.