should exceed those in national law and local practice and not simply adhere to the lowest common denominator.

Business representatives, including Anna Walker (United States Council for International Business [USCIB]), Tom DeLuca (Toys “R” Us [TRU]), and Debbie O’Brien (Business for Social Responsibility [BSR]), noted that many multinational corporations have devoted more resources to implementing and monitoring codes and have integrated the ethos of labor rights compliance into all aspects of supply-chain management. Other participants argued that although codes have had a beneficial effect overall, there is considerable room for improvement. Indeed, the problems associated with the proliferation of codes and monitoring regimes led Marcela Manubens (Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation [PVH]) to state that codes have failed to achieve the necessary level of commitment on the part of companies and their supply chains, as evidenced by continuing widespread violations of labor rights, and have probably outlived their usefulness.

The most common complaint was that the number of corporate codes has grown unmanageable and needs to be reduced through merger and elimination. Roger McDivitt (Patagonia, Inc.) favored the development of a standardized industry or universal code because this would eliminate the excuse of factory managers that the plethora of codes with which they must comply is confusing. Echoing this argument, Neil Kearney (International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers’ Federation [ITGLWF]) said that company-specific codes should be abandoned in favor of multi-stakeholder instruments because the former focus on welfare issues rather than on meaningful aspects of workers’ rights, protect companies’ brand-name reputations but not workers, and rarely involve participation by unions and workers. Kearney attributed the fact that there are only 150 SA8000-certified1 plants in the apparel industry to the requirement that companies (a) commit to the ILO’s fundamental labor rights and (b) change management systems to identify labor rights violations. David Schilling of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) said that a study in the late 1990s showed that only 10 percent of the codes had any provisions for dealing with violations of freedom of association.

1  

Social Accountability 8000 (SA8000) is a workplace standard that covers all key labor rights. Compliance with the standard is certified through independent, accredited auditors who are overseen by Social Accountability International. More information can be found at <www.sa-intl.org> [12/8/2002].



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