ETI launches guide to supply chains & trade unions
The Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) has launched a guide to support companies uphold the right to freedom of association within their supply chains.
Freedom of association is the right for workers and employers to establish and join trade unions of their own choosing, without prior authorisation and interference from government or from one another. The right is enshrined in both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation conventions.
ETI developed the guide in recognition of a lack of clear, practical guidance for companies tackling the issue in their global supply chains.
ETI head of programmes, Debbie Coulter, said: “We recognise that companies often grapple with the practicalities of freedom of association in complex international supply chains. This guide provides concrete steps to help them uphold workers’ right to freely join or form trade unions, including establishing a policy, understanding local labour laws and setting up monitoring systems.”
The guide includes tools that companies can use as part of the auditing process; for example making sure that auditing teams include someone with experience of labour and trade union affairs and that they hold face-to-face interviews with workers. But it also shows why companies need to go beyond a compliance approach, highlighting the importance of strong, ongoing relationships with suppliers, trade unions and NGOs.
Coulter added: “The recently introduced UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights place clear expectations on companies to uphold human rights in their supply chains. This guide looks at how companies can meet these expectations from a freedom of association perspective, for example by undertaking supply chain due diligence, and establishing effective complaints and remediation processes. We hope it proves to be a valuable resource for companies across all sectors.”