Brands must use economic power to stop gender violence in supply chains

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
14 June 2019

Clothing brands should be using their economic leverage to ensure suppliers work to eradicate gender-based violence and harassment (GBVH), according to a report.

The report, from Global Labor Justice (GLJ) and the Asia Floor Wage Alliance (AFWA), said firms should analyse risk factors across supply chains and prevent GBVH through incentive programmes and partnerships with suppliers and trade unions.

The report said brands should prohibit unrealistic production targets that extend working hours and create high-stress work environments. They should also commit to buying only from factories that pay living wages, provide employment security, protect workers from health hazards and uphold rights to freedom of association.

“Brand and retail CSR codes of conduct are far from sufficient to address workplace harassment, violence, and violations of decent work standards,” said the report.

“Brands have a fundamental role to play – along with suppliers and supplier unions – to use their economic leverage – and in some instances economic control – to ensure programmes to eliminate GBVH in their supply chain are prioritised and effective.”

The report was timed to coincide with the conference of the International Labour Organization in Switzerland and follows the launch of the #garmentmetoo campaign in May by GLJ and AFWA.

The report calls on brands to promote a “Safe Circles Approach” at supplier factories, which is based on establishing small groups of workers and supervisors at production-line level with the shared goal of eradicating GBVH.

Anannya Bhattacharjee, international coordinator of AFWA, said: “When women workers in low-wage jobs speak up, they face immediate retaliation and backlash. If fast fashion brands are serious about preventing GBVH on their supply chains, they should adopt the Safe Circles Approach.”

The report said: “While many brands report well-funded initiatives including corporate social responsibility and partnerships with non-governmental organisations, AFWA and GLJ research…shows that GBVH is still prevalent on Asian garment supply chains.

“Brands must move beyond current approaches because they are not working.”

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