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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every summer, tens of thousands of seasonal workers migrate to agriculture production areas across Turkey. A majority of these workers are from the southeastern Turkey and they travel as family groups moving from crop to crop for six to eight months each year. Often, the children work alongside their migrant parents, contributing to the household income, but at the expense of their personal development.
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:
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) conducted this task and risk mapping study in India in 2004 to assess the labor risks in cottonseed farms, with a focus on child labor; to map potential internal and external workplace monitoring systems; and to map local remedial programs. The study consolidates data from two assessment visits made in April 2004 and October 2004 to Andra Pradesh (AP) and Gujarat, two of the largest hybrid cottonseed producing states in India.