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.
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.
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.
Raw materials supply chains are complex and often opaque. They may span multiple companies and can be difficult to trace. Companies’ efforts to ensure decent working conditions are focused mainly on their immediate suppliers. Typically, apparel and footwear companies focus on the finished goods produced in Tier 1 factories.
In 2011, the Fair Labor Association (FLA) launched a study of corn and sunflower production to develop a better understanding of the agriculture sector in Romania. The study was conducted in collaboration with a representative from the international NGO Human Resources without Borders, and an independent Romanian auditor named Mariana Petcu. The aim of this research was to understand the production processes of corn and sunflower seeds and to map the labor risks with regards to labor laws and FLA’s Workplace Code of Conduct in Romania.
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 PREPARE project is a "top-down bottom-up" approach to improve the efficacy of worker representation in factories in Bangladesh. The project employed qualified local trainers who worked directly with individuals at all levels of the factory organization – owners, managers, supervisors, workers, and worker representatives.
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.
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.