Ethical Performance
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Indian textiles industry comes under human rights spotlight

April 2013

Garment and textile companies in India have been asked to provide details of their activities by campaigners intent on stamping out labour rights abuses.

The demands for greater openness are made in Time for Transparency, a paper published by two Dutch pressure groups.

The manufacturers in the clothing supply chain are told to give information about their corporate structure and to reveal the location of their factories.

At the same time wholesalers, retailers and local manufacturers in the Netherlands are advised to share information about their suppliers, including factory names, possible alternative names, the locations and the duration of their relationship with these companies.

The campaigners – the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (Somo) and the India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) – have evidence of forced labour, child labour, unacceptably long working days, mandatory overtime and unsafe working conditions in the Tamil Nadu state of southern India.  

The two groups say that although these abuses have been known for years, manufacturers and buyers at the top of the chain reluctantly began to try to remedy them only when they were exposed.

They point out that the links between parties in the industry are complicated and difficult to unravel, and factories rarely reveal their suppliers’ identities.

Under international guidelines companies should map their supply chain and present it to stakeholders as a due diligence duty, but most of them do not give this information.

However, Somo and ICN insist that precise details are made available so that the industry can challenge buyers to consider abusive practices and work towards removing them.

A year ago Somo and ICN produced Maid in India, a report about the exploitation of lower-caste girls in the Indian clothing industry.

After publication, the Dutch House of representatives, part of the Netherlands parliament, passed a resolution calling for supply chain transparency and the elimination of child labour in the industry, but stopping short of recommending enforced disclosure.

Dutch business associations followed up by starting to prepare an action plan to rid the garment and textile sector of human rights violations. Civil society bodies, including Somo and ICN, were invited to contribute proposals.

Time for Transparency | Asia | Human rights

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