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This page provides further information on sector-specific human rights risks as well as due diligence processes and mitigation strategies for textile and footwear companies. The resources presented below are intended to serve as an addition to the information on general elements of human rights due diligence that apply to companies from all sectors (Policy Commitment, Assessing & Addressing Human Rights Risks and Impacts, Embedding & Integrating Respect for Human Rights, Tracking & Communicating Performance, Grievance & Remedy). Companies from other sectors can also learn from the experiences of textile companies in addressing human rights risks along their supply chains.
The following publications provide general information regarding the implementation of human rights due diligence in the textile sector.
The OECD guide on Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector (2017) supports garment and footwear companies in their endeavour to translate the OECD Guidelines into company processes. This guide supports a common understanding of human rights due diligence and provides manifold recommendations to garment and footwear enterprises on how to avoid and address the potential negative impacts of their activities and supply chains
(2017) published by the Ethical Trading Initiative, companies receive recommendations on how to develop human rights sensitive purchasing practice along their supply chains. The guide includes best practice examples and outlines the five key business practices that influence wages and working conditions.
The guide Ethical and Sustainable Procurement (2013) by Traidcraft, CIPS and the Walk Free Foundation focuses on human rights sensitive procurement practices and addresses companies from various sectors. Many of the examples provided in the report stem from the textile sector
For further guidance on how responsible purchasing practices can improve working conditions in global supply chains, take a look at the guide Suppliers Speak Up (2014) published by the Ethical Trading Initiative Norway. The guide provides buyers with practical examples and tools to adapt practices to create joint value through their buying practices.
The following sections
provide in-depth insights into selected human rights issues that are
particularly relevant for textile companies and identify
If you want to learn more about the human rights risks associated with the leather and footwear industry, the publication Walk a Mile in Their Shoes Workers’ Rights Violations in the Indian Leather and Footwear Industry (2016) by Labour Behind the Label provides thorough background information about issues and risks. The report focuses on India, as one of the largest producers of footwear develops recommendations for different stakeholders, including companies, on how they can contribute to mitigating the human rights risks of this sector.
Wages and Working Hours in the Textiles, Clothing, Leather and Footwear Industries (2014) by the ILO, provides further insight into the status quo and possible innovative solutions to improving fundamental labour rights in the leather and footwear industry. The report focuses in particular on wages and working hours.
If you are interested in learning more about living wages in the textile sector, take a look at the report The Fundamental Right to a Living Wage (2017), published by the NGOs Clean Clothes Campaign and the Circle. The report analyses the wage levels in 14 garment producing countries and develops recommendations for companies on how they can ensure living wages in their supply chains.
With this guide on Labour Minute Costing (2016), the Fair Wear Foundation has developed a tool with practical recommendations for textile companies that seek to ensure living wages along their operations. The guide outlines a practical step-by-step process for identifying and overcoming obstacles to the payment of living wages.
If you are interested in learning more about the role of unions in global production networks, take a look at the guide by the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) on Freedom of association in company supply chains (2013). The ETI guide provides practical recommendations to companies in regards to identifying and understanding the impacts of their operations on the fundamental rights of freedom of association and collective bargaining. Many of the examples cited in the report refer to the textile sector.
If you are interested in Myanmar as a sourcing country, take a look at this report by Oxfam Made in Myanmar - Entrenched poverty or decent jobs for garment workers? (2015). Analysing the working conditions of garment workers in Myanmar, this guide develops a set of recommendations that companies that aim to source from Myanmar factories can and should consider to ensure that workers can access their fundamental rights.
The case study published by Corporate Accountability Forced Labour in the Textile and Garment Sector in Tamil Nadu, South India: Strategies for Redress (2016), examines the working conditions of young women working in textile mills and garment factories in Tamil Nadu in South India. The report finds that here women often work under bonded and forced labour conditions, and suffer various other human rights violations. The report also outlines different grievance and redress mechanisms and develops recommendations for companies to counteract human rights abuses in their supply chains.
If forced labour represents an issue in your company’s supply chain, please refer to the Resource and Action Guide for Apparel & Footwear Companies (2017) by Know the Chain. This resource provides guidance to companies in the apparel and footwear sector on addressing risks of forced labour in their supply chains. This action guide further highlights management practices that can be implemented and encourages companies to adopt new tools and unique approaches.
Migrant labour in the textile and garment industry – A focus on the role
of buying companies (2016)
by the Dutch NGO SOMO addresses these abuses and offers companies that buy
garments for retail a set of recommendations to address exploitation of migrant
workers in their supply chain.
The NGO report "Labour without Liberty" by the India Committee of the Netherlands, Clean Clothes Campaign and Garment Labour Union, investigates the living conditions in Bangalore garment factory hostels and the challenges migrant workers face. One particularly alarming finding is that female migrant workers regularly become victims of forced labour.
Several further fact sheets on the textile and garment industry can be found on the webpage of SOMO.
If you are interested in learning more about the linkages between corruption and human rights due diligence in the textile sector take a look at the report Undress Corruption (2015) by Transparency International (in German). This guide, based on 16 concrete cases of corruption, discusses how companies can react to cases of corruption and develop strategies to counteract future risks of corruption
If you are interested in understanding better the human rights risks
associated with cotton production, the recent report by Cotton Connect Women
in Cotton: Findings from a Gendered Value Chain
Mapping (2017) provides important information. The guide highlights the
crucial role that women play in cotton production, in particular in India and
China. Based on a thorough analysis of women’s rights in cotton production,
practical recommendations for buying companies are developed.
The recent publication Child Labour in Cotton Supply Chains (2017) by the Fair Labor Association focuses specifically on child labour in cotton production. The results of the report are intended to inform government and company efforts to enact their child-labour prevention policies. Recommendations on how to reach full-supply-chain traceability for the purpose of addressing human rights issue are provided both for companies and other stakeholders.
The following section contains an overview of selected initiatives that support companies in the implementation of human rights due diligence. The participation in these initiatives does not replace the integration of human rights due diligence processes in company operations.
Initiated by the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Partnership for Sustainable Textiles is a membership based multi-stakeholder initiative with app. 150 representatives from different stakeholder groups (government, business, NGOs, unions and standardization bodies) that aims to improve the social, ecological, and economic conditions in the supply chains for textiles and apparel products.
Since 2018 the Textile Partnership cooperates with the Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) and the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textiles to promote the harmonization of human rights due diligence in the textile industry, for instance through the peer learning, joint demands and the methodological alignment of reporting procedures and the measurement of impact. Here are more details on the declaration of intent for cooperation with SAC and here on the strategic cooperation with the Dutch Agreement.
The "AAFA/FLA Apparel & Footwear Industry Commitment to Responsible Recruitment" is a cross-sector commitment of the global apparel, footwear, and travel goods industry that was developed in conjunction with the American Apparel & Footwear Association and the Fair Labour Association. With their signature, around 123 companies pledged to adopt responsible recruitment practices and the fair treatment of workers to address potential forced labour risks for migrant workers in the global supply chain.
The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is a European multistakeholder initiative that contains 120 mainly small- and medium-sized apparel companies and aims at sharing expertise, social dialogue and strengthening industrial relations. FWF keeps track of the improvements by the member companies through certification schemes such as audits and factory visits as well as performance-checks and publishes their progress yearly.
The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) is a leading alliance of European companies, trade unions and NGOs that promotes respect for workers' rights around the globe. The ETI provides a forum of exchange of ‚best practices‘, and supports companies in the development of training approaches and practical tools.
The Fair Labor Association (FLA) is a collaborative effort of universities, civil society organizations and companies dedicated to protecting workers’ rights in the entire value chain. The participating companies of the apparel industry undertake to introduce an internal control system as well as a grievance mechanism.
Better Work is a collaboration between the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) – a member of the World Bank Group. The comprehensive program brings together all levels of the textile supply chain to improve the working conditions and the respect of labour rights for workers and boost the competitiveness of apparel businesses.
The Leather Working Group is a multi-stakeholder initiative that connects more than 400 brands, manufacturers, suppliers with NGOs and end users. Focussing primarily on environmental aspects, the group endeavours to promote improvement in the leather manufacturing industry by creating alignment on environmental priorities and by bringing visibility to best practices and providing guidelines for continual improvement.
The Better Cotton Initiative represents a multi-stakeholder group of organisations that jointly aim to promote a more sustainable way of growing cotton. Through trainings and awareness raising, members of the BCI collectively work to address the negative impacts of mainstream cotton production and to share best practices.
Signed in 2011, the Freedom of Association Protocol (FOAP) Indonesia represents an international framework agreement that has been signed by Indonesian textile, clothing and footwear unions, major supplier factories and 6 international sportswear brands (Adidas, Asics, New Balance, Nike, Pentland und Puma). The Protocol establishes specific standards for freedom of association in participating factories, as well as grievance resolution procedures for violations of those standards. It currently applies to approximately 300,000 factory workers employed in industrial districts throughout Java, most of whom are young women.
The Business Social Compliance Initiative (BSCI) is an industry-initiative that supports companies to drive social compliance and improvements within the factories in their global supply chains. BSCI implements the principle international labour standards protecting workers’ rights such as the International Labor Organization (ILO) core labour standards and conventions through monitoring factories against the BSCI Code of Conduct. The BSCI offers members a range of tools and activities to audit, train, share information and influence key actors towards improving labour conditions in the supply chain of participating companies, such as roundtables or training measures for suppliers.
The Bangladesh Accord for Health and Safety represents a multi-stakeholder initiative in which international buyers and trade unions are working together to address some of the structural human rights challenges in the Bangladeshi garment supply chain.
The Sustainable Apparel Coalition is an alliance of brands and retailers of the apparel, footwear and textile industry that aims at fostering forms of sustainable production. The coalition’s main focus lies on the Higg Index, a standardized supply chain measurement tool for all industry participants to understand the environmental and social and labor impacts of making and selling their products and services. By measuring sustainability performance, the initiative aims at environmental and social transparency that is intended as a starting point for further improvement.
The following section provides practical examples from selected companies and their response to some of the risk areas outlined above.
Esprit has concluded an international framework agreement with the trade union organization IndustriALL in August 2018, whereby the fashion company has pledged to the protect labour rights of workers along the entire supply chain. One focus area of the contract is the facilitation of the contractual relationships between regional trade unions and suppliers.
The Partnership for Sustainable Textiles has published the first 60 roadmaps of its members in August 2018. It was the first time that the voluntarily participating companies and associations were obliged to document their progress publicly and to demonstrate how they seek to improve the respect of social and environmental standards among their suppliers. Case studies can be found on the website of the Textile Partnership under the individual member organizations’ names.
In the most recent Ranking of the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark Marks & Spencer achieved the leading position. Here you find the current Human RightsReport (2017) of Marks and Spencer that can serve as a source of inspiration on how to develop a policy commitment on human rights as well as for how to design and implement due diligence along the textile supply chain.
In 2016, the German retailer Tchibo signed a Global Framework Agreement with IndustriALL. The aim of this agreement is to enable workers and unions at non-food suppliers of Tchibo to negotiate collective agreements on working conditions and to strengthen trade unions in the company’s supply chain as an important grievance channel.
H&M has developed a Due Diligence Procedure for the onboarding process of new suppliers into the H&M pool of suppliers. The aim of this process is to develop lasting relationships with suppliers and to support them in dealing with challenges associated with labour rights by providing positive incentives for improving the human rights performance. Based on continuous dialogue, H&M promotes an approach that builds on trust and partnership with its suppliers.
In 2016, Adidas set out to assess the potential risks of modern slavery in its extended supply chain (including Tier 2 and Tier 3). Based on this analysis Adidas has developed a risk based approach to identify and mitigate potential exploitative employment practices in its supply chain. This advanced approach can serve as an example for developing your own risk analysis.
The textile brand GAP has developed an elaborate Human Rights Policy in which the company outlines its approach to human rights due diligence and identified salient human rights issues. This policy can serve to inspire the development of own formats and human rights commitments.
In 2014, Patagonia developed Employment Standards & Implementation Guidance for Migrant Workers. Recognizing that one of the most vulnerable groups in the companies supply chain are migrant workers, the guidance outlines practical steps that suppliers of Patagonia should take to support the eradication of all forms of human trafficking and forced labour in the company’s supply chain.
One fine body…