Tough choices

20 April 2010
The difficulties of managing a multinational supply chain have been examined on numerous occasions. The reputational risk to organisations that fail to prevent child labour in their supply chain is huge and long-lasting. But a recent programme from the BBC has shown the issue is not always as straightforward as you might think. The globe-trotting adventure show Tropic of Cancer depicted arduous child labour in the slums of the city of Dhaka in Bangladesh. It pointed out also that western clothing firms’ efforts to stamp out child labour in their supply chain can result in children, faced with starvation, taking more dangerous jobs. Unicef, the UN children’s charity, is even quoted saying it has begun to accept child labour as a necessary evil. Many families are dependent on children’s earnings, so it is not desirable to end child labour immediately, the charity says. Instead the charity works for safer child working environments and time off for children to attend its education centres. The Unicef approach shows those attempting to promote ethical practices through the supply chain can be faced with tough choices, no matter how cruel child labour seems. Watch Tropic of Cancer on BBC iPlayer here. The segment on child labour begins about 18 minutes into the programme.
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