ICAR engages in multi-stakeholder initiatives (MSIs) that address business and human rights issues where we see the potential to strengthen standards and build meaningful reforms across a sector. For example, ICAR serves on the Board of the International Code of Conduct for Private Security Providers Association, where we provide a strong NGO voice on human rights issues related to private security.
ICAR will now join the Fair Labor Association’s (FLA) Civil Society Caucus as we see potential to promote stronger standards around transparency and living wages.
Supply chain mapping and transparency is a key prerequisite to improving working conditions in the apparel and footwear sector. Supply chain mapping helps companies to accurately identify human rights risks in their supply chains. In order to conduct adequate risk assessments, enterprises must first know the locations of entities within their supply chain. A company may be able to identify some risks, such as risks linked to the enterprise’s sourcing model, without knowledge of its supply chain. However, other risks, such as risks associated with the country of production, cannot be identified without knowing the supply chain. Additionally, worker involvement in human rights due diligence and consultation with other stakeholders at various stages of the process is imperative, and without knowledge of the supply chain, this engagement is not possible.
Mapping supply chains alone is not enough; companies must also publicly disclose their supply chains. First, public disclosure of supply chain information facilitates verification that companies are indeed addressing human rights risks in their supply chains. Specifically, while a company may disclose its human rights policies and due diligence procedures, there is no way for other stakeholders to verify that these policies and processes are actually being implemented unless the company is also disclosing its suppliers. Second, public disclosure of supply chain information enables workers to inform brands of abuses in their supply chains. Workers are the best monitors of human rights conditions in supply chains as they are in factories day in and day out and have first-hand knowledge of abuses. Conversely, social auditors only provide a snapshot of the human rights conditions in a factory on a particular day, and are not well suited to identify violations of the freedom of association and right to bargain collectively. However, workers may not know which brands they are producing for, and therefore do not know who to reach out to about abuses. By publishing their supplier list, companies provide workers with the information they need to play a key monitoring role.
Additionally, low wages being paid to workers throughout supply chains can lead to negative human rights outcomes and may exacerbate inequality. When the right to a living wage is not fulfilled, it results in the denial of other rights. For example, when workers do not earn a living wage, they may be unable to feed, house, and educate themselves and their families, unable to access healthcare, and unable to participate in social and cultural life. Despite the importance of living wage, workers around the world still do not earn enough to meet their basic needs and care for their families.
ICAR believes our participation in the Fair Labor Association’s Civil Society Caucus, which has the role of being a “strong CSO voice in the strategy, program development, and decision-making of the FLA,” will be an opportunity to further these key priorities.