Summary: Working with a wide range of stakeholders is fundamental to bringing about positive change in workers’ lives. We turned to two leaders of multi-stakeholder initiatives for their perspective on the challenges and rewards of these efforts.
As we have worked to improve factory working conditions over the past couple decades, one of our most important insights has been that we cannot act alone. Progress hinges on our ability to come together with others who bring diverse perspectives and work across sectors. A global supply chain brings global challenges that touch on everything from cultural practices and endemic poverty to infrastructure problems and weak government oversight.
Multi-stakeholder initiatives hold some of the greatest promise to bring about systemic change. Two organizations in particular have enabled us to join such efforts: Social Accountability International (SAI) and the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI). Both focus on the lives of workers: how to advance worker rights, provide people with opportunities to help themselves, and support improvements in factory conditions that make a positive difference in people’s lives.
As a Corporate Member of SAI, we share the mission to improve working conditions in our supply chain, in accordance with performance based criteria based on relevant ILO conventions and national law, utilizing management systems and multi-stakeholder dialogue.
For example, in the past decade, we have worked with SAI and a broad range of stakeholders in Central America to achieve something once thought near-impossible: getting trade union leaders and factory managers to sit in a room together and work through issues. You can read more about the “Continuous Improvement in the Central American Workplace” (CIMCAW) project in our 2005 – 2006 report which can be downloaded here. We are collaborating with SAI and others to pilot its Social Fingerprint® program, which will make it more efficient for factories to self-assess and implement improvements. Our director of Global Partnerships and Public Policy, Darryl Knudsen, sits on SAI’s Advisory Board.
ETI, meanwhile, has helped us gain critical insight into our company’s purchasing practices and how the design and production of a garment could affect the lives of workers thousands of miles away. Among other issues, ETI has also helped us address the complex challenge of ensuring safe and fair treatment of women who do handwork, which often is produced outside the formal supply chain.
To provide a window into these efforts, we spoke at length with the leaders of SAI and ETI, Alice Tepper Marlin and Peter McAllister, who talked openly about the challenges and rewards of multi-stakeholder initiatives and the role we play in this work. Their thoughts on everything from what they expect to tackle in coming years to what they think American consumers may not understand about what it really takes to improve workers’ lives can be found here.