Tag Archives: working conditions

The reasoning behind conscious consumption

The Twitterverse was recently asked “Morally, is it worse to get something from Amazon, or Harvey Norman?”

The question solicited many responses: some described the character of the CEOs, others mentioned the wages and taxes paid (or not paid) by each company, while yet other Twitter users cited the labour conditions experienced by workers at these companies.

These factors may or may not influence whether you buy from Harvey Norman or Amazon, but they aren’t issues that help to answer the moral question. As a matter of fact, the question whether to buy from Harvey Norman or Amazon arguably isn’t a moral one at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is important that people ask themselves questions such as these, but this specific question is a not a moral one: rather, it is an ethical question, the answer to which is informed by your values.

At the risk of sounding pedantic, let me explain.

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Coronavirus Hits Precarious Workers in Supply Chains Hardest

Computer chip and circuit board factory, Jiangxi, China. Shutterstock

The COVID-19 coronavirus is officially a pandemic, the US and Australian share markets have collapsed, both governments have unveiled stimulus packages, and Australia’s trade union movement is worried about the position of casuals. But things are worse overseas, including for the workers who make products for Australians.

20,000 garment workers in Cambodia face job losses from factory closures because of shortages of raw materials from China and reduced orders from buyers in the virus-affected locations including the United States and Europe. Thousands have already lost their jobs in Myanmar. Garment workers in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are uncertain of their futures.

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Cotton Value Chain – Labour Risk Heat Maps

The Queensland University of Technology and the University of Technology Sydney have been funded by the Cotton Research and Development Corporation to research “Strategies for improving labour conditions within the Australian cotton value chain”  (2019-2022).

Non-Government Organisations are active in pressuring fashion brands to be accountable for their social and environmental claims. Labour is currently in the spotlight. Over 20 million employees in garment manufacturing in Asia Pacific are paid below the minimum wage. ILO ratification in Australia’s export countries is low and non-compliance high (up to 90%). This project will provide information to enable the cotton industry to understand labour issues along its value chain and recommend strategies for the industry to explore.

Phase 1 produced a heat map, based on secondary data, which provides an overview of labour issues affecting the textile and apparel industry in primary export destinations in the Australian cotton value chain. Click on the image below to see the full interactive heat maps which were created using Tableau.

Labour Risk Heat Maps

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Book Review: “Addressing Modern Slavery”

When the Bill that became the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (Cth) was introduced into the federal parliament, it was accompanied by a grim message: two centuries after the abolition of the slave trade in the United Kingdom, it is estimated that there are twenty-five million victims of modern slavery worldwide. It also came with a bracing if Panglossian promise: that the Modern Slavery Act would ‘transform’ the way large companies in Australia do business, and drive a ‘race to the top’. Published a year after the introduction of this legislation, Addressing Modern Slavery is a timely reflection on the pervasiveness of modern slavery in global supply chains – and on the role of the state, business, and other actors in combating this serious and complex problem.

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Nutella and Child Labour

Nearly three-quarters of the world’s hazelnuts come from Turkey and the biggest buyer is Ferrero, maker of Nutella, the chocolate and hazelnut spread. But the nuts are picked mainly by migrants, including children, who work long hours for very low pay. What is Ferrero doing to ensure its products do not depend on child labour?

In new our book “Addressing Modern Slavery“, we talk about Turkey, hazelnuts and Ferrero: “As Turkey’s Labour Code does not apply to farms with fewer than 50 employees, the state has effectively removed itself from policing this problem. Monitoring of working conditions and ensuring payment of wages is left to companies like Ferrero – a privately held company that is the third largest chocolate maker in the world – which refuses to disclose information about its supply chain” (p177 ).

New book reveals modern slavery is all around us

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It’s estimated that 40.3 million people are enslaved around the world.

For many Australians, the concept of modern-day slavery may seem implausible. But it’s estimated that 40.3 million people are enslaved around the world, more than ever before in human history.

The Global Slavery Index estimates 15,000 people were living in modern slavery in Australia in 2018.

Addressing Modern Slavery examines how consumers, business and government can help eradicate one of the big challenges of our time.

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Message to Coles, Woolworths: Act now to end modern slavery

The Australian horticultural sector is one of the most at-risk industries for modern slavery.

recent survey by the National Union of Workers among 650 workers found severe underpayments and withholding of wages, excessive overtime, retention of identity documents, threats of and actual physical and sexual violence, and coercive and excessive payments for transport and board.

A group of academics, experts in the area of labour and human rights, modern slavery, and supply chains, have initiated an open letter in which they ask Coles and Woolworths to address labour exploitation and the risk of modern slavery.

Australia’s Modern Slavery Act requires businesses to report yearly on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains, the actions taken in response, and the effectiveness of these actions. The first reporting cycle started on July 1.

Unfortunately, although companies and consumers are increasingly aware that modern slavery exists, it is a phenomenon that is often dismissed or misunderstood.

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Modern slavery laws – what do they mean for your business?

Modern slavery and supply chain transparency are some of the new buzz words attracting increased attention from the corporate sector, write Justine Nolan and Martijn Boersma.

In 2018, Australia (and NSW) enacted modern slavery laws which require entities to report on the risks of modern slavery in their operations and supply chains and actions taken to address those risks. This new law will impact companies, law firms, universities and the Australian government who will now need to have a better understanding about how their operations and procurement practices may be enabling modern slavery.

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Apple’s $1 trillion riches based on innovation and exploitation

Apple has become the first American company to reach US$1 trillion in market capitalisation – US$1,000,000,000,000 in stockmarket value. Behind this glittering success, however, lies a series of unresolved ethical dilemmas a history of staggering labour exploitation.

The approaches of Apple and the other giant US platform technology companies (Google, Facebook, Amazon) to corporate taxation, concentration and privacy have attracted widespread criticism.

But as a manufacturing company Apple faces a more deep-seated problem. This involves the millions of people employed in its supply chain, which is largely located in China with the major contractor Foxconn.

Our research shows human rights, environmental and ethical problems persist inside Apple’s vast global supply chains.

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