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Business - Written by on Friday, February 13, 2009 10:05 - 0 Comments

Participatory regulation for workplace health and safety

Here are some examples of participatory regulation where workers, employers, NGOs, and citizens collaborate to help monitor and enforce workplace health and safety rules. The initiatives I’ve documented below focus on worker’s rights in the furthest reaches of corporate supply chains for consumer items ranging from chocolate and confectionery to running shoes and other apparel.

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Worker’s Rights Consortium — an independent labor rights monitoring organization, conducting investigations of working conditions in factories around the globe. Its purpose is to combat sweatshops and protect the rights of workers who sew apparel and make other products sold in the United States. Like the FLA below, the WRC emerged after allegations surfaced that Nike and other major brands were sourcing their high-priced items from sweatshops where workers were working in horrendous conditions for as little as 5 cents an hour.

Fair Labor Association. Similar to the WRC, the FLA brings together colleges and universities, civil society organizations, and “socially responsible companies”. Companies that join the FLA commit to establishing internal systems for monitoring workplace conditions and maintaining Code standards, being part of a rigorous system of Independent External Monitoring (IEM), and public reporting on the conditions in their supplier factories.

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The Cocoa Initiative emerged after investigations by human rights organizations revealed that child slaves were being forced to farm the cocoa that eventually finds its way into chocolate treats manufactured by companies such as Hershey’s, Nestle and Cadbury. Public scrutiny forced the companies to respond — even though they initially claimed that they bore no responsibility since they purchased their cocoa on the commodity markets and had no direct relationships with the cocoa suppliers. The public didn’t buy this excuse and the result was a unique partnership between NGOs, labour unions, cocoa processors and the major chocolate brands to change the way cocoa is grown.

Other good examples? Leave a comment.



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