Apparel exporters to end child labour, cleanse supply

Child labor, can't we try to stop it?

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AHMEDABAD: Censured for engaging child labour by gloabl apparel brands, the Indian apparel export industry has decided to adopt zero tolerance on child labour and cleanse the supply chain.

The extensive auditing of the supply chain will make garments from India expensive by 5%, but will keep India off trade barriers owing to lack of compliance.

“There is a huge complaince fatigue in the Indian apparel export industry. Although catering to the global brands, apparel suppliers are yet to accept that compliance is an essential management practice. We would now reach out to labour contractors to remove child labour and get the supply chain of the suppliers audied so that the industry is not held ransom by our global buyers due to prevailance of child labour or bonded labour in the supply chain,” said Chandrima Chatterjee of the Apparel Export Promotion Council.

AEPC has designed a complaince programme “Disha” (Driving Industry Towards Sustainable Human Capital Advancement) that would be implemented on the $11 bn industry soon. Disha will be coordinated and monitored in liaison with the Ministry of Textile. Global apparel buyers like H&M, Adidas, Next were part of the team that went behind consultations while drafting Disha.

Primark, Gap, M&S have had problems with their Indian suppliers in the past when the latter faulted on compliance. US, that gives 30% of business to the industry, blacklisted it for using child and forced labour and even cancelled certain shipments for non-complaince.

International Labour Organisation‘s Coen Kompier notes that excessive contract labour in North India, wages, freedom of association and supervisory practices are cause of concern. In the supply chain, which is mostly informal, child labour is a problem, especially at home-based work (embroidery), he adds.

Disha, essentially a faith-building exercise, will bring in rigorous third party audit programmes involving international auditing agencies in the supply chain. Post-audits and implementation of suggestions by the audit committees, factory owners can have accreditation from international agencies, which will make them competent in international business.

“Supply chain auditing will take into account the primary facility, sub-contractor, sub-sub-contractors, home-based work in villages and even slums. While small time exporters are believed to incur 5% extra cost due to complaince, it would be 1% for big export houses. The exporters would need to make their management more efficient,” Chatterjee adds. Disha will aid garment exporters understand and comply with global social standards and norms of International Labour Organization (ILO) pertaining to child labour and labour related aspects like health, safety and also ensure that cases of trafficking, forced labour, exploitation are identified and plugged.

About 700 garment factories will be initially orientated for the programme. Kompier however, adds that auditing of the supply chain alone would not help. “It has not resulted in major improvements over the past decade,” he says adding that multinational buyers need to coordinate their compliance work, and establish linkages with public factory inspection authorities.


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