Week of 8 June 2020
Making human rights due diligence work for farmers and textile workers will require a specific focus on (1) fair purchasing practices, living wages and living incomes and (2) addressing systemic issues such as unequal power relations, land tenure security and environmental damage (according to University of Greenwich, The Fair Trade Advocacy Office and Brot für die Welt)
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of producers, and particularly small-scale producers, in global supply chains. The economic slowdown has ruptured links in supply chains, with farmers forced to sell crops at reduced rates and textile workers often receiving no pay for work already completed or losing their jobs altogether.
The Fair Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO), along with Brot für die Welt and the University of Greenwich (UK), released a report exploring how human rights due diligence (HRDD) can have a positive impact on farmers and workers and how fair purchasing practices, living wages and living incomes can be addressed by HRDD frameworks and instruments. The report focuses on the impact of HRDD in two sectors—agriculture and textiles—and seeks to provide learnings for policymakers on creating effective mandatory HRDD frameworks.
Through a review of existing literature, case studies on garments (India) and horticulture (Kenya), and a series of interviews with impacted producers and stakeholders, the researchers find that:
- Human rights abuses are an endemic issue in global supply chains and form part of the dominant business model. However, while an insufficient measure on its own, if well-designed and implemented, HRDD could play an important role in ensuring human rights in reformed global supply chains.
- HRDD frameworks are diverse and fragmented. Implementation is weak, monitoring of compliance inconsistent, and monitoring of impacts on the ground virtually non-existent. When monitoring does occur, this tends to be led by civil society. There is no clear role for stakeholders and those directly impacted by corporate harm; there are few provisions for liability, either civil and criminal, and many obstacles which prevent victims of harm from accessing justice.
- Where poorly implemented, HRDD carries negative effect, such as passing the additional costs of compliance to suppliers, or masking inaction by companies. HRDD frameworks, as currently designed and implemented, do not guarantee that issues such as living wages, living incomes, fair purchasing practices, nor systemic issues such as unequal power relations, land tenure security and environmental damage, will be adequately addressed.
- Explicit consideration of living wages, living incomes and fair purchasing practices is needed in HRDD, as well as effective oversight of HRDD more generally. This is necessary to ensure that HRDD leads to fairer purchasing practices and business models, enables observance of human rights and reduces environmental damage, so leading to positive outcomes for workers and small farmers.
- Effective design and implementation of HRDD are essential, but they are only part of the solution. More far-reaching, systemic changes need to be instituted in political and economic systems, so that the latter are resilient (i.e. can recover from shocks and stresses) and regenerative (protects and restores environments and communities).
The report also sets out a theory of change for human rights due diligence, as well as a set of recommendations for government, companies, civil society, funders and other actors on developing and implementing effective due diligence. Among other recommendations, the authors call for companies to:
- Include consideration of how purchasing practices may obstruct suppliers’ capacity to exercise HRDD
- Provide for the active participation of stakeholders, including workers, small farmers, communities, harvesters and artisans and their representatives in the design and implementation of all due diligence processes (with a specific emphasis on women and marginalized group)
- Consider access to living wages and living incomes throughout the supply chain and
- Consider the inter-linkages between sectors and different human rights and systemic issues in the supply chain (e.g. purchasing practices, environmental issues)
Source: V. Neslon, O. Martin-Ortega and M. Flint, Making Human Rights Due Diligence Work: An Analysis of Impact and Legal Options, University of Greenwich Report Commissioned by the Fair Trade Advocacy Office and Brot für die Welt (Chatham UK, June 2020)