2009 Annual Public Report

When President Clinton convened a meeting of multinational companies and NGOs at the White House in 1996 and challenged them to work together to improve working conditions in the apparel and footwear industry–a process that led to the formation of the Fair Labor Association in 1999–the dialogue was highly adversarial. The parties had to hammer out a system for respecting labor rights with meaningful performance obligations for companies and sufficient safeguards to ensure that the companies lived up to those obligations.

Securing those safeguards in a context in which there was no trust, precedent or template took a lot of hard bargaining. The result, however, was an unprecedented level of commitment by all to respect human rights in global supply chains. In the space of three years, the negotiations went from a point at which companies contested whether they were responsible for labor standards at contract facilities to one in which they agreed to adopt a code of conduct and apply it throughout their supply chains.