Sunday marks three years since the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh. This disaster led to the tragic loss of 1130 lives, left 2500 injured, and sparked a global debate about workers’ rights and ethical labour standards in low-wage countries. In Australia, civil society organisations such as Baptist World Aid and Oxfam lead the charge to expose labour abuses and improve working conditions in global supply chains. But thus far the government has been largely absent form this debate and has been slow to act.
Australian companies will soon be publishing financial results, as well as information about sustainability efforts. Corporate social responsibility of the big four banks – Australia and New Zealand Banking Group (ANZ), Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA), National Australia Bank (NAB) and Westpac is a continuing topic of debate following recent scandals and reports of unsustainable activities. Yet according to ANZ chairman, David Gonski, Australians ought to “stop bashing the banks” for being large and profitable. This comment should put civil society on guard.
At first sight child labour may not appear to be a material issue for Australian companies and investors. However the fragmentation of global production and trade has dramatically increased the length and complexity of supply chains, which can lead to lack of oversight and worker exploitation. The global movement to eradicate child labour has gained significant pace over recent years. Increasingly, global unions and NGOs collaborate with companies and investors to find ways to deal with the risks of child labour in global supply chains. This report looks at those efforts.