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 Fair Labor Association commissioned two independent external experts – Corinne Adam, an independent consultant, and Lynda Diane Mull, Executive Director and President of the International Initiative to End Child Labor – to conduct a task and labor risk mapping study of hybrid corn and sunflower seeds production in Argentina.
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:
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.
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.
Turkey’s garment and textile supply chain is large and complex. The upper tiers are often difficult to trace, making it difficult to engage workers and support worker rights beyond Tier 1 (downstream) suppliers.
Employers in small and medium-sized enterprises often operate informally and lack awareness of the national or international standards on decent work conditions and child labor. Many of these workplaces have precarious working conditions and pose a high risk for workers.
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 Jo-In Project was a collaborative effort of six leading international labor rights and code implementation organizations, including the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI), Fair Labor Association (FLA), Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), Social Accountability International (SAI), and Worker Rights Consortium (WRC). The Jo-In project focused on enhancing collaboration among these organizations to identify best practices in the field of code implementation.
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 ENABLE Project is an FLA initiative targeted toward the agricultural sector. Activities include: agricultural monitoring; remediation; capacity building activities; and stakeholder engagement.
The stakeholder engagement component is an ENABLE initiative that seeks input from local and international experts on agricultural monitoring, remediation and capacity building efforts. These consultations are organized with the overall objective of enhancing the effectiveness and relevance of the work the FLA is undertaking in the agriculture sector.