Friday 21st October 2016                 Change text size:

Investors push retailers for better working conditions in the developing world

Chinese-owned textile factory

Investors and religious groups in the US have called for better safety in overseas factories, in the aftermath of last month’s Bangladesh tragedy.

The signatories of a letter released by the Interfaith Centre on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) include, among others, Aviva Investors, EIRIS and the Socially Responsible Investment Coalition (SRIC).

They call “on industry leaders to implement systemic reforms that will ensure worker safety and welfare and to adopt zero tolerance policies on global supply chain abuses.”

The letter explains that retail giants have failed to respect human rights and decent working conditions in their overseas factories – a negligence that culminated in the death of more than a thousand people in Bangladesh last month.

The letter says, “The current model, which assures global customers will have a ready supply of inexpensive and up-to-the-minute fashion, incentivises corruption and lax oversight as low-cost producing nations compete in a race to the bottom for garment manufacturing contracts.”

It adds that while local governments may ignore the issues to attract investment, the poorest and most vulnerable workers are “caught in the middle”, struggling to survive with an indecent wage.

The investors ask companies to join forces to improve safety at factories; to work with trade unions to ensure living wages to workers; to disclose their suppliers; and to provide adequate compensation in case of losses.

The letter concludes, “As investors, we also bear responsibility to enhance the power of the private sector to effect positive change by engaging companies to ensure that human rights remain at the core of their business models.”

Further reading:

Bangladesh tragedy ‘could have been avoided’

Sporting goods and sweatshops

‘We need to tackle the root causes of inequality and poverty’

The Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility 2013

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