Coalition agrees to improve garment supply chain

1 April 2016

A coalition of organisations and government has agreed to improve sustainability in the international textile supply chain.

Industry organisations, trade unions, civil-society organisations and the Dutch government are supporting an agreement which includes taking steps to improve sustainability and working conditions in garment and textile production in countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Turkey.

The agreement has been drafted under the guidance of the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER) and the broad coalition includes industry organisations VGT, Modint and Inretail, trade unions FNV and CNV, the Dutch government and the civil-society organisations Solidaridad, UNICEF Nederland, India Committee of the Netherlands, the Dutch Stop Child Labour Coalition and Four Paws Netherlands.

The coalition has agreed to tackle issues such as discrimination, child labour and forced labour, as well as supporting meaningful dialogue with independent employee representatives. It will also work towards achieving a living wage, safe conditions and a healthier environment for employees, reducing adverse environmental impact, reducing water, energy and chemical usage and waste, and the prevention of animal suffering.

SER said the coalition would enable the parties to work together on objectives that would be difficult to achieve individually, such as living wages, stronger trade unions and the reduction of excessively long working days.

Participating enterprises will identify issues that affect their suppliers at all stages of the chain and will draw up an annual improvement plan. Trade unions and civil-society organisations will support the plans with their expertise and will involve their local partners their implementation. The Dutch government will try to reach agreements with governments in production countries to reinforce their health and safety inspectorate.

A joint report on activities and progress will be issued each year for the first three years, and organisations will report individually after that.

The coalition will secure funding for the agreement and aim to have it signed in June by at least 35 companies in the sector, who together represent at least 30 per cent of sales in the Netherlands.

Lilianne Ploumen, Dutch minister of foreign trade and development cooperation, said the agreement was a great step forward in combating malpractices in the garment and textile industry in developing countries.

“Together, they will endeavour to improve working conditions in these countries and make the manufacturing process more environmentally friendly,” said Ploumen. “This is very good news for all those people who are still working excessively long days in dangerous conditions for very low pay. It’s also good news for the industry as a whole and for the consumer, everyone will be better off as a result.”

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