Monday, August 20, 2007

Corporate Social Responsibility Brings Limited Progress on Workplace Safety in Global Supply Chains

The role of corporations in workplace health and safety ...

"Fifteen years after blistering anti-sweatshop campaigns against transnational corporations like Nike sparked the booming corporate social responsibility industry, there have been small improvements in workplace health and safety in the thousands of factories in the developing world. These modest gains, however, are undermined by fatal flaws caused by conflicting demands of transnationals on their global supply chains.

The most visible aspects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) over the last decade have been the proclamation of hundreds of corporate codes of conduct; the development of numerous in-house and third-party code monitoring organizations; thousands of pre-announced factory audits; dozens of annual CSR conferences, magazines and books; and the issuance of glossy annual CSR reports, especially by consumer goods retailers.

Yet the actual impact of all this CSR activity on working conditions on the factory floors of suppliers in some of the poorest countries in the world has been marginal. There has been a flood of reports, both about particular factories and CSR programs in general, indicating that not much has changed, despite the millions of dollars spent in the CSR industry. [See the sidebar with a list of key reports.]
Weak Impact of CSR on Working Conditions

Certainly there has been no progress in meeting the first two of the four “core categories” of the 1998 International Labor Organization’s “Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights At Work:”

1. Freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining;
2. The elimination of forced or compulsory labor;
3. The abolition of child labor; and
4. The elimination of discrimination with respect to employment and occupation.

Progress in the last two categories of the ILO Declaration has been restricted to a relative handful of the 70,000 transnational brands operating or contracting plants outside their home countries."    (Continued via Occupational Hazards)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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