Purchasing practices and working conditions in global supply chains: Global Survey results


At the 105th Session of the International Labour Conference the ILO and its constituents were asked to take a proactive role in generating and making accessible reliable data on decent work in global supply chains (GSCs). In addition they were asked to conduct research to better understand how supply chains work and their impact on decent work and fundamental rights.  

INWORK took action by carrying out a Global Survey on purchasing practices and working conditions in collaboration with the joint Ethical Trading Initiatives (ETIs). In total 1,454 suppliers from 87 countries responded to the questionnaire.

Two of the countries with the highest number of companies are China and India, but all geographical areas are represented. The activities performed by these suppliers cover most manufacturing industries, including garments, food, chemicals and metals, as well as the agricultural sector.

This Global Survey is also strong in terms of number of workers covered, nearly 1.5 million workers.

This study also analyses purchasing practices and working conditions by firm size. The companies covered vary greatly in size, which allows us to reach results and conclusions that are not restricted to a particular type of company.

In terms of female employment, surveyed suppliers in the garment sector were found to be dominated by women (representing 57 per cent of employees), their participation was lower in sectors such as Chemicals and Plastics (26 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively). Women are underrepresented in managerial positions in all sectors.

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Recognise unions in supply chains, says Parliamentary committee

The Joint Committee on Human Rights has proposed government action to oblige UK-based companies to ensure recognition of trade unions before they sign contracts with suppliers, alongside a stronger legal duty on employers to prevent human rights abuse in their operations. The recommendation, which comes with a suite of others in a wide-ranging report on Human Rights and Business released today, would – if implemented – transform rights for workers around the world denied access to support to protect themselves from long hours, low pay, deadly health & safety conditions and other abuses in the workplace. Unions are valuable partners for businesses that are taking their responsibilities seriously. As the committee recognises, a trade union presence is a far better guarantee of human rights than predicable and sporadic auditing inspections.

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Call for papers special issue of Organization: Fruits of Labour: Work and Organization in the Global Food System

Work undertaken to produce food is one of the most fundamental and ancient forms of labour human beings must engage in to survive and flourish. It is not surprising, therefore, that much of the academic focus on food work has been on primary forms, i.e. ‘on’ rather than ‘off’ the land. Thus, there are many studies of peasant labour, of the transitions caused by industrialization and mechanization of farming, of the role of migrant labour on the land. Yet, remarkably less attention has been given to the broader range of food labour – despite the revolution in length, complexity, control and technology of food work in the 20th century. As societies have industrialized and urbanized, food remains perplexingly hidden to most of us (Li, 2011). The need for consumers to understand these processes bubbles up from time to time. It was forcefully brought home, for instance, by the horsemeat scandal that gripped Europe in 2012. Scandals such as these have spawned a range of consumer and policy reactions, from skepticism to changed behaviour to moments of renewed interest in the production and regulation of food production.

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Apparel sector progress too slow in Bangladesh, says EU

Four years have passed since the Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, when more than a thousand factory workers lost their lives as a result of poor health and safety practices, and building maintenance checks. While there has been progress on safety, the apparel sector stands accused of losing momentum in dealing with what has remained a major challenge: worker rights. A recent official EU warning could mean that if Bangladesh does not implement ILO recommendations, that focus on right to association and collective bargaining, the country risks being shut out from the current beneficial tariffs system that it enjoys. This could mean a 12% tariff applied to imports into the EU from Bangladesh, significant, given that the EU accounts for 62% of Bangladesh’s garment exports.

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Call for papers panel: Responsible value chains and production networks: challenges and perspectives

One of the key global challenges of the twenty-first century is to understand how firms, from OECD and emerging economies, might better engage with questions of responsibility and social justice, thereby becoming more accountable. Heightened awareness of consumers, campaigns and direct action by NGOs and other civil society groups, and recent orientations in national and supranational policies are now pressuring firms to take responsibility for the environmental and social impact of all activities linked with their products, not just those undertaken in house. The increasing fragmentation of production and deepening of outsourcing and offshoring, poses significant challenges in terms of ensuring sustainable production and consumption systems.

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