The river of articles and reports on unsafe, unhealthy and illegal working conditions in the global supply chains of all major consumer products (apparel, electronics, toys, sports shoes, food, etc.) continues unabated. I have assembled a selection of key reports and articles for the period of May to June 2018. Among my favorites this quarter are:
- New initiatives in many parts of the world to combat gender-based violence, sexual harassment and assault;
- The strengths and weaknesses of the OECD “Due Diligence Guidelines” for protecting human rights in global supply chains;
- How much money is paid to World Cup soccer players and how little is paid to the workers who make their shoes and shirts; and
- Ongoing child and forced labor in the world’s food supply chains, including cocoa and seafood.
There is nothing new to report on the ineffectiveness of the standard “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) programs to address hazardous and illegal working conditions. These programs continue to be unable to make any meaningful impact to improve conditions for workers employed in the supply chain of renown consumer brand products “brands.”
There is an alternative to CSR that is gaining publicity and support – it is called “worker-driven social responsibility” (WSR). The operating principles of WSR include:
- “Labor rights initiatives must be worker-driven” – this means factory floor workers and their representatives must play an integral part in the development, implementation and verification of workplace standards; and
- “Buyers must afford suppliers the financial incentive and capacity to comply” – this means that once hazards are found, the brand cannot just walk away from the factory, but rather must provide the local factories with the resources and support required to actually fix the problems.
The entire statement of principles, as well as the organizational and individual endorsers of WSR, are at the website of the Worker-Driven Social Responsibility Network.
I’ve written previously about how conscientious consumers and public health professional can monitor working conditions and workers’ rights in global supply chains. The UK’s Business & Human Rights Resource Centre provides a one-stop way, thanks to the staff of this non-profit organization. They scour the internet for the latest reports from companies, governments and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on all aspects of global business. You can sign up for a weekly notification. The Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network also continues to provide up-to-date information on CSR on its website.