Workshop on 'Issues of Trafficking in Garment Supply Chain'
With the aim of throwing light on the complexity of the issue of forced labour as well as the broader issue of trafficking in the supply chain, Gap Inc. in collaboration with Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) and United National Office on drugs and Crime (UNODC), Regional Office for South Asia (ROSA), organized a one day workshop to discuss the issue of 'trafficking in garment supply chain'. The workshop was held under the banner of UN.GIFT.
The objective of this workshop was two-fold. To help sensitize the garment and textile sector on the issue of trafficked labour including children in the supply chain. And to encourage others from the industry to collaborate in tackling the challenging issue of trafficking in the supply chain. This workshop was supported by the participation of various national and international brands, retailers, sourcing agents such as NEXT, TESCO, H&M, Orient Fashion, Impulse to name a few. Also present were members from Brands Ethics Working Group (BEWG), International Textile Garment & Leather Workers' Federation (ITGLWF), ILO, officials from MWCD and UNODC.
Ms. Lakshmi Bhatia, Director Global Partnerships, Social Responsibility Gap Inc.
Ms. Lakshmi Bhatia, Director Global Partnerships, Social Responsibility Gap Inc. in her welcome address mentioned that as one of the founder members of the Brands Ethics Working Group (BEWG), GAP Inc. has endeavoured to share some of their learnings with the broader industry group in India on a regular basis. "We hope that by sharing some of the steps we are taking inside the company as well as in the industry will help enable greater transparency of how this sector operates and encourage others from the industry to collaborate in tackling the challenging issue of trafficking in the supply chain".
Mr. Gary Lewis, Representative, UNODC ROSA
Mr. Gary Lewis, Representative UNODC, in his address applauded the initiative of Gap Inc. in bringing the garment and supply industry under a common platform. Mr. Lewis emphasized the increasing need for companies to look beyond traditional methods of supply chain management and auditing. "Business need to work through their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes to put in place systems and processes that addresses this risk from both and economic and a social angle. One example would be to develop
codes of conduct for a clean production process and related implementation systems such as
social auditing". Mr. Lewis also acknowledged the support provided by MWCD in addressing this complex problem.
Mr. Anil Kumar, Secretary, MWCD
Mr. Anil Kumar, Secretary MWCD, called upon the members from the garment and supply chain industry to look at human trafficking as a global issue affecting all individuals. In this context, he pointed out to the importance of factories and supply chain employing ethical standards and guidelines. He also highlighted the strategy adopted by MWCD including the
Ujjawala scheme which can be used as platform for collaborative partnership and action towards addressing the problem of trafficking.
Panel Discussion (I): Perspectives on Trafficking
Panellists: Mr. Neil Kearney, General Secretary - ITGLWF, Mr. Sanjay Kumar - Sewa, Dr. P.M. Nair,
Project Coordinator - UNODC, Dr. Achal Bhagat - Sarthak,
Moderator: Mr. Jeffrey Avina
Mr. Neil Kearney, General Secretary, ITGLWF
Mr. Neil Kearney, General Secretary ITGLWF, drew the attention of the participants to the issue of forced labour, trafficking and neo-slavery surviving in the industry globally. He also raised the issue of ensuring that clothes and shoes produced should be free from any form of slavery.
Mr. P.M. Nair, Project Coordinator, UNODC ROSA
Mr. P.M. Nair, Project Coordinator UNODC, spoke about the ITPA Act (Immoral Trafficking Prevention Act) and the need for factory owners being more vigilant regarding the recruitment policies of their sub-contractors.
Dr. Achal Bhagat from Sarthak mentioned about the overlooking of blind spots during audits in shop floor. He also said that the purpose of the business houses should not be only to earn profit.
Mr. Sunil Kumar from SEWA focused his discussion on home based workers. Most of the embellishment work in the garment industry is done by home based worker. He recommended greater promotion of home based work to prevent human trafficking for forced labour.
Mr. Jeffrey Avina pointed out to the need for certification- certifying products and brands that use ethical practices, corporates being praised and rewarded for the corporate social responsibility.
Panel discussion (II): Industry Perspective
Panellists: Mr. Pradeep Kumar - Gap Inc., Michael Bennett - TECSO, Bernice Leppard - NEXT, Amit Sethi - Orient Fashions and Sunil Arora - Impulse
Moderator: Mr. Jeffrey Avina
Panellists from left: Sunil Arora, Bernice Leppard, Jeffrey Avina, Michael Bennett and Amit Sethi
Mr. Pradeep Kumar Gap Inc. discussed the importance of ensuring ethical supply chain which doesn't affect children.
Mr. Michael Bennett, Manager Hub India TESCO, shared the core values of TESCO. In order to address the issue of human trafficking; he suggested the involvement of multi stakeholders on a wider level within a comprehensive framework.
Ms. Bernice Lepperd, NEXT, shared the challenges faced by suppliers. She stressed the need to reduce the vulnerabilities of home workers. Also, excessive working hour and falsified records, restricts the suppliers form working on the welfare of the home based workers.
Mr. Amit Sethi from Orient Fashions recommended the need to pressurise suppliers to reduce child labour. He also urged the garment industry to blacklist sub-contractors who use child labour. He also said that Brands should have a re-look at their sourcing strategy and ensure that supply chain is mapped and ethical means being adopted.
Mr. Sunil Arora from Impulse stressed the need for having a joint strategy where the domestic garment should also be involved. He also felt that increase interactions between artisans and markets should take place; this may help cut down the existing layers of sub-contractors.
After the second plenary session, the participants were divided into four working groups. The objective was to discuss and deliberate upon the following critical questions.
What are the challenges to identifying and addressing trafficking in the textile, clothing and footwear chain?
What supply chain changes are needed to make them more transparent an thus make the use of trafficked labour more difficult?
What should buyers and suppliers be doing to clean up the supply chain and produce sustainable systems for prominent exclusion of trafficked labour at every level?
Certification and labelling are often suggested as solution to overcome trafficked labour, but how would it work and how can it be guaranteed.
Following are the key suggestions/feedback that emerged from the working groups:
Reducing the layers of sub contactors in the supply chain.
Better assessment and mechanism to address seasonal volume surge in production.
Involvement of the principal supplier in getting absolute transparency and accountability of the supply chain till the last unit.
Improve awareness of the problem at al levels of the supply chain.
Define guidelines for minimum standards of clean business.
Create a Data Base of all vendors and develop a preferred list of contractors, sub- contractors based on minimum standards of clean business being followed.
Incentives/awards for those following clean business practices aimed at combating trafficked forced labour.
Encourage self assessment capacity of all vendors and self disclosure.
Brands to provide full support to vendors/contractors in building their capacity to address the problem
Brands to provide support through flexibility in time line for production reduce pressure for sudden volume surge in production through better planning and design management.
Certification through external validation not always successful in addressing the core issue.
Need to have involve key stakeholder from within define the certification process
Need for well defined monitoring mechanism to address the above.
Brands, Suppliers to facilitate the economic and social development of catchments areas from where labour requirements happen to ensure a technically skilled exploitation free labor force.
Need to put in place a multi-stakeholder Think Tank to take the process forward.
Closing Session: Way Forward
The workshop concluded with the recommended way forward read out by Ms. Manjula Krishnan, Joint Secretary MWCD
Constitute a multi stakeholder 'Think Tank' - which can have members representing the garment and textile industry, government, NGOs, UNODC and international organisations.
The 'Think Tank' will keep the dialogue going and meet every three months.
Involve domestic industry.
In a collaborative manner, develop a short, medium and long term strategy comprising of maintaining database of all the sub-contractors and suppliers, code of conduct and others.
MWCD is willing to legitimize the 'Think Tank'. MWVCD will also bring other ministries such as labour, commerce, overseas Indian affairs.
The members of the 'Think Tank' will be given an opportunity to take part in high level meetings such as the Central Advisory Committee.
Generate awareness and understanding the various sensitivity of trafficking .Compile the best practices and disseminate it widely.
Develop a simple management information system (MIS) format to collect information and disseminate it through an information network.
The need for a sustained campaign to sensitize media professionals.
Adopt a village which has high potential for trafficking and announce them as zero tolerance blocks.
Survivors and victims of trafficking need to be rehabilitated.
The 'Think Thank' can support MWCD supported Self help Groups (SHGs) and provide them with vocational skills. They can benefit by becoming the core-producers for all the sub-contracts. The activities can be monitored by MWCD.
To deepen the knowledge on the trafficking issues through survey and studies.
Mr. Jeffrey Avina summarised the workshop and gave the concluding remarks.