Do sweatshops exist in America? Ask Arnie, who has just launched the California Economic and Employment Enforcement Coalition. This means government support for factory inspections, rather than relying on retailers to implement their own social compliance programme, which of course they only do with an eye to the PR value thereof.
When I try to explain what I do for a living, people seem puzzled that any company would pay for their suppliers to be inspected by us, if it isn’t a legal requirement for them to do so. Because surely it’s better for them to keep quiet about the abuse of the people who make their products for next to nothing, in developing countries. In England, most retailers look very blankly at our salesman when he tries to offer them our services. Corporate Social Responsibility? Yes, thanks, we already give our staff subsidised gym membership…
United Nations Global Compact
The UN Global Compact is a voluntary set of principles to which its participants commit their businesses, within their own sphere of influence:
Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labour;
Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labour; and
Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges;
Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility; and
Principle 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
Principle 10: Businesses should work against all forms of corruption, including extortion and bribery.
I confess that I was naive to suggest that “Made In America” meant that an item wasn’t sweatshop-made.
My dad has the same problem. He builds sewage plants and effluent control. But till very recently unless forced to clean up your water, why not just dump it back into the water.
Now things are changing with many big name companies (e.g. BMW) refusing to work with suppliers unless their environmental scratch are up to scratch.
Hopefully this will permeate through all aspects of business with companies refusing to work with supplies that are not treating their staff properly.
Adrain – I had an environmental scratch once.
But it got better.
Was that from an environmental itch?
Stuart: I deliberately left your name out of it! This wasn’t intended as a lecture.
Supply chain responsibility is very important for big business, but most of us remain blissfully ignorant until something goes wrong.
So….why would a company would pay for their suppliers to be inspected by you, if it wasn’t a legal requirement for them to do so?
A combination of good social concious, and consumer demand.
See customers might demand high work ethics and standards of BMW, but the wouldn’t have any clue about Widget Supplier 15. So customers put pressure on BMW and BMW puts pressure on Widget Supplier 15.
Environmentally for a company to be ISO140001 compliant they need to have all their suppliers compliant as well. I don’t know if their is a similar standards body (notwithstanding the UN) that forces the whole supply chain to be compliant for the company producing the end product to be compliant. I would hope so but don’t really know.
On the anti-corruption one, does this make Sony a bunch of EVILS.
There are standards for social compliance, such as SA8000; and various organisations produce Codes of Conduct, usually incorporating the ILO standard detailed above.
As Adrian (and I) said, it’s generally consumer-driven. The only reason that there is a fashion for companies to become socially compliant, is that they don’t want to be the next target of the Clean Clothes Campaign or whichever other activist group is currently targeting non-ethical corporations.
Look anyone who thought “A Knight’s Tale” was good deserved what they got (and I include my parents in that).
However, Sony has been missing the point ever since they tried to force ATRAC on us. Possibly way before that. Big Stick + Beating = required.
I would like to get a refund for seeing the Hollow Man though. Then again, my hourly rate is way more than GBP1.40!
A lot of companies think that Corporate Social Responsibility means giving their employees time off once a month to repaint a school playground in a deprived area…
I recall a radio programme I heard a couple of years back that argued that socially responsible companies have been demonstrated over the long-term to be more profitable.
Alternatively, the vast majority of companies are SMEs, so the concerns of the individuals running them will permeate their business practices (or not).
I think that’s because companies look at social responsibility after they have got on top of ISO9001 (quality management systems), ISO14001 (environmental management) and Investors In People, all of which have also been shown to increase profitability – which suggests to me that it’s the nature of the company itself that makes them more profitable, rather than the fact that they are socially responsible.
70% of american CEOs say they believe that social responsibility will make them more profitable. Which begs the question why so few of them do anything about it.
Talking of social responsibility, mine’s a pint.
And mine’s a Smirnoff Blue?