The Ethical Trading Action Group

December 07, 2006 14:11 ET

Ethical Trading Action Group/Revealing Clothing Report: Companies Opening up on Labour Standards

But tackling labour rights abuses requires more worker involvement

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Dec. 7, 2006) - The Ethical Trading Action Group (ETAG) today released its second annual Transparency Report Card, comparing public reporting on labour standards compliance by 30 top apparel retailers and brands including Levi Strauss, Nike, adidas, H&M, Mountain Equipment Co-op, Roots, La Senza, Reitmans and 22 others. Top scoring companies include Levi Strauss, Reebok, Mountain Equipment Co-op, adidas and Gap Inc.

Revealing Clothing, ETAG's 2006 Transparency Report Card, assesses companies on the basis of their programs to achieve and maintain compliance with recognized international labour standards in the factories around the world where their products are made, and the steps they are taking to thoroughly, effectively and transparently communicate these efforts to the public.

"Over the past year, some major brands and retailers have improved reporting on labour standards compliance," said Kevin Thomas, a spokesperson for ETAG. Canadian companies Mountain Equipment Co-op, Mark's Work Wearhouse and HBC all improved their scores in this year's rating. "Public reporting is on its way to becoming a business imperative. But despite improvements in reporting there is still a long way to go to improve actual labour conditions in apparel factories worldwide."

"Leading companies have publicly expressed willingness to discuss root causes of persistent labour rights problems in their supply chains," Thomas said, noting that this year more companies are reporting training programs for factory management and other efforts to change persistent bad practices. "But our study shows that companies are less willing to discuss how their own business model of ever-lower prices and highly-mobile production might be causing these problems."

Thomas noted that supply factories receive negative incentives when retailers and brands shift production from factories that have made improvements in labour practices to other countries with lower labour costs, or ask factory owners to meet higher standards while simultaneously demanding lower prices.

While welcoming increased talk of "sustainable compliance" with labour standards, Ian Thomson, Program Coordinator for Corporate Social Responsibility with KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives said, "Companies can't get there alone."

"The next step is for companies to engage consistently with factory workers, NGOs, faith groups, and trade unions in developing sustainable solutions."

ETAG found that fourteen of the thirty companies surveyed reported engagement with NGOs and trade unions, up from only five in last year's report. However, with a few exceptions, most companies are not fully engaging factory workers in labour standards compliance efforts.

ETAG is a national coalition of faith, labour, teacher and non-governmental organizations advocating for government policies, voluntary codes of conduct and ethical purchasing policies that promote humane labour practices based on accepted international labour standards. ETAG member groups include the Canadian Auto Workers, Canadian Council for International Cooperation, Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Union of Public Employees, KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, Maquila Solidarity Network, Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, Oxfam Canada, Steelworkers Humanity Fund, and UNITE-HERE.

A complete copy of the report can be downloaded from:
www.maquilasolidarity.org

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