Neil Kearney: CSR-focused union leader who sought consensusDecember 2009
Neil Kearney, a key figure behind the Ethical Trading Initiative and the SA8000 workplace standard, has died aged 59 of a heart attack.
Kearney, who was general secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation (ITGLWF), spent many years encouraging multinationals to improve workplace standards in their supply chain, and was an engaging speaker at CSR events.
He was a founding advisory board member of the US-based body Social Accountability International, which devised the SA8000 standard that is now used by hundreds of companies worldwide, and was a board member of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) from its inception in 1998.
ETI director Dan Rees said: ‘It’s largely because of Neil that labour rights is the priority it is for many companies.’ SAI said his efforts in support of SA8000 were a key factor in its eventual global popularity.
Lesley Roberts, corporate responsibility director at the clothing group Pentland, said: ‘His energy and passion for improving workers’ lives was an inspiration to many of us. We might have seemed on opposing sides at times but... his commitment to finding consensus and agreement was second to none.’
Kearney, who was Irish, died while working in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on 19 November. He was elected as ITGLWF general secretary in 1988, and visited more than 140 countries in that capacity.
He is survived by his wife Jutta and two daughters, Nicole and Carolin.