The Fair Labor Association made public today findings from independent audits of seven major footwear and apparel companies, probing the protection of workers rights in the companies global operations on a factory-by-factory basis. FLA also issued its first annual public report on the companies monitoring and remediation efforts as they seek to come into compliance with FLAs Workplace Code of Conduct.
“This marks a breakthrough in corporate accountability to the public,” said FLA Executive Director Auret van Heerden. “Working together, companies and critics have taken a big step beyond talking about social responsibility and are starting to get the facts into public view.” The full audit results and the public report are available at www.fairlabor.org.
Van Heerden noted that the audits show every instance of non-compliance with the FLA Code, large or small, that was found by accredited independent monitors in 48 of the 185 monitoring visits during FLAs first year of full operation (August 1, 2001-July 31, 2002). These unannounced and announced audits took place in factories in 30 countries on five continents. The materials released today also show the status of remediation for each of the violations found in these factories. Status reports will be kept up to date on the Internet and, effective immediately, a new report will be added each time an additional factory is externally monitored. “This means that members of the public will be able to see for themselves exactly what is being found in each factory and what is being done about it,” he said.
The public report provides information on the compliance programs that have been put in place by the seven companies that have completed their first year of full participation in FLA and reports the findings and remediation efforts during the first year under each of the nine provisions of the FLA Code. The companies included in this years report are adidas-Salomon, Eddie Bauer, Levi Strauss & Co., Liz Claiborne Inc., Nike Inc., Phillips-Van Heusen and Reebok International Ltd.
In addition to reporting on the progress of these companies in year two, next years public report will cover additional companies that are currently engaged in their first-year of FLA participation. Joy Athletic, Gear for Sports and Patagonia are also participating companies.
FLA was founded three years ago to create a uniform code of conduct and monitoring process for the increasing globalization of multinational company supply chains. FLA participants include human rights, labor rights, women’s rights, and consumer groups as well as 179 colleges and universities; 12 participating companies and 1,262 collegiate licensees. Every participating company has pledged to adhere to the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct throughout its global manufacturing operations, and to agree to systematic independent monitoring of factory conditions with results to be posted on the FLA website for public review. FLA universities also require that companies producing their licensed products join the organization. Several of these licensees are included among the companies whose reports are being issued today.
“From their initial entry into the FLA, schools have pressed for just this kind of company-by-company, factory-by-factory information that the FLA process is starting to make available,” said Robert Durkee, Princeton Universitys Vice President for Public Affairs and one of three university members on the FLA Board of Directors. “This is a promising first step, and we hope this information, along with the substantially expanded information to follow, will be of interest to students, faculty and others on our campuses who care deeply about working conditions in factories and the rights of workers around the world.”
Doug Cahn, FLA Board Member and Vice President, Human Rights Programs, Reebok International Ltd. explained, “Companies that participate in the FLA process commit to exercising their influence to protect the rights of factory workers. The FLA report describes the progress companies are making.” He notes that factory workers can benefit by the participation of additional companies in the FLA process.
“This first round of audits shows that there is room for improvement at all of these companies and in all of these factories,” said Michael Posner, FLA Board Member and Executive Director, Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. “The companies deserve a lot of credit for trusting the public with the grit as well as the gloss, on an issue that will take persistence and struggle for many years to come.”
Posner noted that the release of information represent only a first stage in the FLA’s disclosure process, with major improvements to come. He explained that independent audits will cover more factories next year, and that the FLA’s measurements will be improved and standardized on the basis of first-year experience. For example, monitoring improvements are being developed for difficult-to-detect violations such as discrimination, harassment, and restricting the right to organize. Posner also emphasized the importance of the public being able to make fair company-to-company comparisons on the basis of workers rights performance, which will be possible when the FLA process has been fully implemented.