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Retailers don’t get a medal for sourcing

By Tyler Davis [November 22nd, 2012] 

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A recent report outlines factory conditions in countries creating apparel for the Summer 2012 Olympics by major retailers, where workers suffer from poverty wages and overworked conditions. Adherence to local labor laws in necessary when sourcing from least developed countries, which often set the bar lower than developed countries.

The report, titled Fair Games? Human Rights and Workers in the Olympic 2012 Supplier Factories, outlines and documents limited instances of workers abuse in factories in China, the Philippians, and Sri Lanka in the production of Olympic goods. Ten factories were used for the data in the report and eight of those were sourcing for the Olympics. Adidas was sited in the report with regard to employing workers for 10 years solely for minimum wage, without a pay increase.

Labor laws vary worldwide, and meeting those standards can often be a challenge when sourcing globally. Completing due diligence and visiting factories is necessary to ensure that your brand and those factories are in compliance with local legal requirements. Consulting legal counsel in each country may be the best method. With laws like California’s Supply Chain Transparency Act to combat slavery and human trafficking, we enter an era where supply chain and sourcing methods could have legal ramifications within the US, not just locally.

One alternative option is to confer with international trade unions. This report was compiled by researchers working on the Fair Play Campaign, and includes the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation, the International Trade Union Confederation, and the Clean Clothes Campaign.

The legal hurdles in sourcing and fair labor initiatives are as much the responsibility of the local factory, as they are the responsibility of the brand that employs them.

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