G7 vows to improve working conditions in global supply chains
The G7 group has agreed to strive for better conditions in global supply chains after pressure from the global labour movement.
“Unsafe and poor working conditions lead to significant social and economic losses and are linked to environmental damage,” the G7 group said in its leader’s declaration following this week’s summit in Berlin.
“Given our prominent share in the globalisation process, G7 countries have an important role to play in promoting labour rights, decent working conditions and environmental protection in global supply chains.”
In a bid to enhance transparency and accountability in supply chains, the G7 also encouraged business active or headquartered in G7 countries to implement due diligence procedures regarding their supply chains, such as voluntary due diligence plans or guides. It welcomed the closing of the funding gap in the Rana Plaza Donor Trust Fund for compensating the victims of the factory collapse in 2013.
Reacting to the statement, UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings said, “We thank the G7 for gathering political momentum to close the Rana Plaza Trust Fund however this experience has shown us that collecting $30 million on a voluntary basis can take a painstakingly long time – in this case one and a half years.”
“We should question how far the voluntary model will carry in the supply chain, after all, it was a system of voluntary safety inspections that led to the collapse of Rana Plaza in the first place.”
“The G7 statement contains a few crucial elements such as due diligence and transparency but without the necessary tools to force unwilling companies to comply and to hold them accountable, we risk returning to business as usual instead of a necessary transition of the global apparel industry.”
Jennings pointed to the strength of the Bangladesh Accord – the legally binding agreement between brands and global unions that aims to improve factory safety over a five year term. He vowed to build momentum towards the ILO conference in 2016, which has supply chains as its theme.
“The pressures for responsible business conduct has reached the highest political level and big business should pay close attention,” Jennings said.
The G7 countries underlined the importance of international guidelines in enforcing labour rights.
“We will strive for better application of internationally recognized labour, social and environmental standards, principles and commitments (in particular UN, OECD, ILO and applicable environmental agreements) in global supply chains. We will engage with other countries, for example within the G20, to that end.”
The G7 said it “strongly supports” the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and urged private sector implementation of human rights due diligence. “We recognize the joint responsibility of governments and business to foster sustainable supply chains and encourage best practices,” the statement said.