Supply chains: Adopt legally binding rules for businesses, says Human Rights Watch

Aditi Nigam New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on May 30, 2016

Citing exploitation of labour, including of children, in countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, among others, by big companies involved in sectors such as garments, construction, tobacco and mining, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report has called for binding ILO global standards for businesses across supply chains.

The report launched ahead of the 2016 International Labour Conference hosted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva, said a process to develop a binding international convention to protect human rights in global supply chains was necessary to ensure “decent work” in global supply chains.

“Legally binding rules are the only realistic way to ensure that companies don’t exploit workers or contribute to labour abuses,” said Juliane Kippenberg, associate children’s rights director at HRW.

According to the report, ‘Human Rights in Supply Chain’, an estimated 450 million people are employed in global supply chains for sourcing goods and services. 

In addition, local communities also suffered human rights abuses when companies acquire land for large-scale mining, agribusiness, or other commercial enterprises linked to global supply chains, it said 

Pegging its report on the April 2013  collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh, which killed over 1,110 garment workers and injured over 2,000, the report said the deaths were a consequence of “poor regulation and enforcement of labour laws”, appalling working conditions and labour rights abuses in the garment sector. 

“Voluntary standards on human rights and business are not enough,” Kippenberg said in a statement, adding that “some companies embrace them, but others don’t care and ignore their human rights responsibilities”, which is why “a binding standard on human rights in supply chains globally is needed to ensure that businesses live up to their human rights responsibilities.”

It said ILO’s tripartite structure involving employers, employees and governments was best placed to initiate such a process.

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Published on May 30, 2016
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