Language selection


Webinar transcript: Due diligence in the garment industry

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Good morning, afternoon, and evening to those of you joining us from around the world. Before we begin I would just like to confirm that this event has simultaneous interpretation into French. For those of you that would require interpretation, please use the following toll free number 1833 493 2020 to receive French audio. The attendee access code is 9522 9477. My colleague will include these numbers in the chat.

[ Translator speaking in French ]

Before we begin. I just want to confirm that we have simultaneous interpretation into French. For those of you who need interpretation please call the following number 1 833-493-2020 to get the French audio. The access code for participants is 9522 9477. My colleague will cut and paste these numbers in the chat.

My name is Sheri Meyerhoffer. I'm the Canadian Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise. And it is my pleasure to moderate this discussion today. I would like to begin by acknowledging that I am joining today's event from Ottawa which is the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin and Anishinaabe People. I would also like to thank the OECD for the opportunity to facilitate this important discussion. Today's event will focus on key issues related to child rights and child labour in the garment sector. A few logistics before we move on. Please note that we are recording this webinar, and both English and French recording will be available on our website along with a summary report. Our panel look forward to answering your questions during the 15 minutes, the final 15 minutes of our session today. Please use the Q and A function on the bottom right-hand side of your screen to send your questions in either English or French. If you are experiencing technical difficulties, please email our technician who is on standby. His email is being included in the chat. And now let's begin. Our discussion today is on garment companies and suppliers, and how they can put in place strong due diligence requirements to identify and prevent the use of child labour. Above all, this is an opportunity to share important lessons and best practices. This conversation is taking place as consumers increasingly demand greater transparency and accountability from garment companies and the fashion industry as a whole. We're also seeing a movement nationally and internationally towards due diligence legislation. Within this broader context we hope to learn today how COVID 19 pandemic has affected garment supply chain and human rights due diligence activities on the ground. Our discussion builds on the United Nations guiding principles on business and human rights, as well as the due diligence that the OECD has produced for responsible supply chains in the garment and foot wear sector. Just one final note before we turn to our panel. My office was established by the Canadian government to promote responsible business conduct in Canada's garment, mining, and oil and gas sectors. Within that mandate, we recently launched a study that will examine the possible use of child labour in Canada's garment sector. We look forward to sharing the findings of our study with you later this year. I'd now like to introduce our four panellists. Collectively, they bring a wealth of experience and a range of perspectives. Our first panellist is Tulika Bansal. Tulika Bansal is a senior advisor on business and human rights with the Danish Institute for Human Rights. For more than a decade, she has engaged with corporate actors, governments, UN agencies, and national human rights institutions to promote respect for human rights [inaudible] in the private sector. Our second panellist is in Ines Kaempfer. Ines Kaempfer is the CEO of the Centre for Child Rights and Business, a social enterprise that works with companies including garment companies to protect and promote child rights in supply chains. Under Ines's leadership, the centre has become a leading global expert on child prevention and remediation that now covers 16 countries. Our third panellist is Claire O'Kane. Claire is an international child rights consultant. She is a practitioner and researcher with more than 25 years of international experience in child rights and participation work in diverse contexts. Our fourth panellist is Claudia Sandoval. Claudia is Vice-President for Corporate Citizenship with Gildan, one of Canada's largest garment companies. She manages Gildan's environmental, social, and governance program across the global supply chain. Thank you all for joining us today. So let's begin the discussion. Ines, can you start off the discussion by providing us with your thoughts on the main risks related to child labour facing the garment sector in 2022.

Ines Kaempfer: Thank you so much, Sheri, and first of all thanks for having me. Really happy to be here. I think to understand kind of what's coming to the government sector in 2022, it might be important to look at a couple of trends and I'll only  mention three so I won't talk for an hour. But I think one important one is obviously that throughout the NGO and child rights organizations everyone agrees and has observed, or at least assumes that there is an increase in child labour in the last two years. Because one of the probably most devastating side effects of COVID is that children, many children have had significant hurdles to access education, and access to schooling is very closely related to the risk to child labour. So the harder the access the greater the risk. So that's one thing to keep in mind, in particular, because that access to schooling has had a lot of -- the lack of access to schooling had a lot of impact in typical sourcing countries of the garment industry such as Bangladesh, for example, who have seen hardly a day of school in 2021. And for many of those kids, that means they've lost the access to schooling entirely so they've just given up on school and are now moving on to something else which often is entering the labour market way too early. On the business side, we've observed an increased lack of transparency. At the Hong Kong consultancy Elevate has through the data thousands of thousands of audits that they have available, seeing that in 2021, transparency within supply chain has decreased by over 30%. That means we do know less what's really going on in the supply chain. And that decrease was particularly significant in Asia where it was already kind of rather intransparent, or that was the most intransparent area to start with. So we have a big kind of issue that we don't know what's going on in our supply chain. And kind of contradictory or kind of on a collision course to that trend is the third trend I wanted to mention, and that is the increased pressure that the sector is dealing with. The pressure comes from governments through strengthened legal frameworks. But it also comes from banks and investors who put more and more importance to environmental and social governance (ESG). A recent study by PWC has shown that nearly half of banks are ready to divest if they see a lack of actions on ESG amongst their investees. And they also, about one-third say they've already refused investments if they saw there's lack of action. So clear strong pressure coming from there and pressure coming from the business itself throughout the chain. So this kind of government in financial institution pressure trickles down through businesses who now put much more pressure also on their business partners. And so it doesn't just impact the big businesses, it impacts the smaller one as well. And all of that will create a lot of pressure for the government sector to try to counter that lack of transparency and dig deeper. But knowing that we have such a big risk of child labour in many of those areas, my prediction is that once companies do that and go, in particular once they go deeper down the supply chain, they unfortunately will find more evidence and more risk of child labour in these next coming months. So that's just very short a couple of trends and I hope I get time to elaborate a bit more on some of those.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great. Thank you, Ines. And I'm going to move now to Tulika and just ask what's your take on this, based on your experience working for Denmark's National Human Rights Institution. what do you see as the main risks related to child rights in the garment sector this year?

Tulika Bansal: Thank you for the question, Sheri. I wanted to share three points as well. The first being that in addition to the pandemic I want to point out the example of Myanmar. Myanmar a couple of years ago opened up for business and a lot of garment companies entered Myanmar. But as most of you might be aware of a year ago the country was taken over by the military, and that has hugely affected the garment sector. And with all consequences in addition to the pandemic and which is affecting workers, and also children and families due to orders that have been canceled, and or companies that have temporarily stopped production in Myanmar. And this has led to no income for families and affecting livelihoods of families including children. The second thing that I wanted to mention what Ines alluded to is access to education which has hugely affected children not being able to attend school and then entering the workforce. Another issue to consider is that of working women in the garment sector, many women are those that work in the sector but have also been differently and adversely affected by the COVID 19 pandemic. And as women are often the primary caretakers of children, this has also directly affected children from sickness of mothers to deaths. And this has also led to children having to work instead of their mothers. And then the last point that I wanted to raise is also adding on to what Ines said around transparency. Due to the pandemic there has been less opportunities for companies in the garment industry to conduct social audits or other types of assessments or studies on the ground to assess and address children's rights issues including child labour. Many of such audits were transformed into virtual audits. So audits through video connections and phone calls, but for an issue like child labour which is already more of a hidden practice, it is already challenging to detect this issue through an in-person audit. So it is practically impossible to identify child labour through a video connection. How do you build trust with your interviewee and how can you, for example, do age verification through a video interview. How can you speak to workers and families offsite in a trustworthy environment and understand the drivers behind child labour? So these are some of the risks that we are seeing this year.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great. Thanks Tulika. We're building quite a list here. So and I want to jump to Claudia as a representative of one of Canada's largest garment brands, what does Gildan see as some of the main child related risks for the sector from your perspective?

Claudia Sandoval: Thank you, Sheri. And I'm very honoured to be here and sharing our experience in this area. For those of you who might not be very familiar with Gildan, Gildan - it's a vertically integrated manufacturer. We own and operate large scale vertically integrated factories in North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Bangladesh. We have been operating under a strong commitment leading practices in labour governance and environmental standards. This topic around challenges related to child labour. It's something that we have been looking at for many years, and obviously we have identified challenges that are impacting the industry or the sector. One of them, and it has been mentioned by our panellists, it's related to the complex and fragmented supply chain of the garment industry. And I think we all agree that it has been good work for companies looking at a tier 1 factories or factories manufacturing the finished goods. But there we need to look at what's happening in the other areas of spinning or growing the material the raw material for the products. And this is connected with the sector. It's sourcing and dependant. It's a source dependant industry. And as I mentioned before as we go upstream there is less visibility on what's happening in tier 2 or tier 3 factories. In our case, we feel that our commitment to traceability must go beyond tier 1, and it's our responsibility to ensure that tier 2 and tier 3 suppliers are meeting our standards in our traceability strategies. The other challenge that I would like to mention, it is connected to the efforts and we still see isolated efforts from governments, civil society, and international organizations. And those efforts since are isolated might not be or they lack momentum for a significant impact. And, again, as one of the panellists were mentioning, there are different socioeconomic factors that we need to take into account in the different countries where government companies are operating. Again, in the case of Gildan owning the factories, and in operating tier 2, tier 3 factories, we think it has been a good experience for us to have better visibility and have better control of the supply chain.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great, thank you very much, Claudia. So, Claire, talking to you. What about in your work, which is very specific. How do you see the ongoing pandemic affecting children who work? What do children say about the risks they face and what is needed to address them?

Claire O'Kane: Yeah, thank you. Well, for the particular I'm focussing on some findings. So for the past six years where I've been working with working children who are organized in their own children's committees through 'This time to talk', a Dialogue Works projects supported by a number of NGOs, across 15 countries and kind of linked to this some studies particularly with working children and caregivers about the impacts of COVID on their lives. And as already emphasized by other panellists, that people have really emphasized that the kind of real negative impact on education and particularly the digital divide that really makes children kind of affected by poverty even worse affected by those that have been able to continue education through online, both [inaudible] particularly in the early stages of the pandemic from the lockdown. How it really led to loss of work and loss of income and due to market closures, and lack of public transport. But as work started, as the kind of stability started then, again, there was less work. It was much harder for children and caregivers to do what they were doing prior to the pandemic. So that's really increased risks of children engaging in worse forms of work and being being paid less but with much longer work. And children have also spoken up about the kind of increased violence they faced within the families, within communities, within workplaces where they have been able to get back to work. And they've also been very clear on their own recommendations. So including the need for governments, or donors, or NGOs to really consult and collaborate with them with both children and caregivers to better understand their rights, realities and to support them. And the real strong focus on the need to support their survival access to food security, to cash, to various, you know they didn't know the word social protection but what they're asking for was basically kind of access to social protection schemes and the access to quality education. So, again, like either supporting children to safely go back to school or if the education was continue online to ensure that they had access to --- to a computer or internet would allow that. And the broad access to health services. They had a lot of fears about even going to a health centre because of the risk of getting COVID. So there was kind of a lack of health services generally. And, again, the need for access to accessible kind of non-discriminatory protection services at every level. I'll stop there but there's a lot more we could get into.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great, well, hopefully, we can circle back so that everyone can answer some other questions and we'll give you a chance at the end to add some thoughts also. So I just want to shift a little bit right now based on the risks identified and start a discussion that sort of addreses that - solutions, finding out more about how companies are addressing child labour, and again identifying the ongoing barriers that we see. So I want to start first with industry this time and, Claudia, what strategies has Gildan put in place to prevent and address child labour?


Sheri Meyerhoffer: I think you're on mute, Claudia.

Claudia Sandoval: Thanks, Sheri. And this is an excellent question, and I would like to address it from two angles. One of them needs due diligence processes, and the other element will be employee involvement. And let me talk about due diligence processes. I think we are familiar with the traditional way in which companies have been monitoring trying to prevent child labour or protectubg children's rights. And it has been through the traditional audit and monitoring systems. We do think that this process has to evolve and we are looking at due diligence from different angles. From a different angle now and it should include obviously human right reassessments to identify what it's happening in different countries. Their realities are different and varied depending on the location. And once we identify those risks, to ensure that there is an ongoing monitoring system in place is key. And to provide clear and concise guidelines to factories and suppliers, and for us that has been very important to take that capacity building with factories. It's an ongoing process, and it has given good results. The other part of due diligence - it has to do and it's something that we have been implementing in the past few years -- it's looking at responsible at purchasing and planning practices. And I'm speaking here about planning practices because we own the factories. And the vast majority of our products are produced factories that we own. So looking at responsible planning is important. And so we have developed policies around this area of responsible planning and production. But the key for us, so to provide training to the members of the management who are involved because at the end, they are the ones in the day-to-day dealing with the factories. And if they have the knowledge or how the decisions on production might impact human rights, might impact the lives of children, they will be in a better position to detect or raise the flag. So the other element is transparency and traceability within that, that's very key - in the past few years, as we all know, there has been a lot of effort from companies to communicate lists of factories. In our case, what we have in our website it's really that all factories in Tier 2, Tier 3 because it's 90% manufacturing in our facility. So most of our manufacturers they're on that list. So within traceability, it's key. The presence of grievance mechanisms as well, and those grievance mechanisms must be available for not only the factory but also for the stakeholders in the communities. And it's something we have done as well extending or channels to community members. And finally on due diligence, we think it's very important to communicate with local and international stakeholders. And they play a key role. They know what is happening in the community. And we have been trying to implement or add that element to our due diligence processes. Now, finally I would like to go to this element within it's very key, and very important to protect children's rights. And it's about employee involvement through the strengthening of local educational systems in countries where we operate. And it's, how we have get to that conclusion. It's basically consultant with workers, consulting with employees -- 50% of our employees are women. And they face that challenge with their children. And when we go and ask they mentioned that we should get involved and work with the schools in the communities where they have their children. So it has been a good experience working in in that area. Just in 2020 more than 300 schools were supported. We faced the challenge of COVID and then suddenly not having access to technology, so we partnered with an international NGO to support teachers to use the technology and to have better access to communicate with children. So they're having different mechanisms that we have used to support education. Finally we did a pilot with the Centre for Child Rights that Ines is managing, and it was a very great experience to connect children and their parents, parents that are coming from rural areas and they don't see their children but bring their children to where the parents have their work and have this a special time during the summer. It has been a very good, a very good program that we think is worthy to continue expanding. So summarizing two elements then in terms of solution, is strengthen due diligence processes and, second, strengthening educational programs in the communities where we have our factories.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great. Excellent, thank you very much. Claudia. Now I just want to say as we've heard from Claudia, Gildan is a large integrated company. So, Ines, I want to sort of look at a different kind of company, and based on your work with the different garment companies, how are small and medium-sized enterprises coping with these issues?

Ines Kaempfer: There are many [chuckle] SMEs so obviously they cope with that differently. But I would say there is probably two tendencies. I mean there is the tendencies of what we hear sometimes when we talk to smaller companies or medium-sized companies that they say oh, we're too small. We have no leverage. You know our buying power is very small. We are only I don't know 5% of the factory, et cetera. But I think there is this other tendency that we can see, for one, this has to do with the pressure that I just mentioned at the beginning of the larger companies becoming more and more demanding towards all their business partners. So, for example, online websites where you sell your things, online retailers will become demanding on towards the people that they feature on their websites, and say look we need to have those places in or we need to have the systems in place. So a smaller company will feel that pressure. So even a smaller brand, same thing with -- so last year alone, we have worked with 21 I would say tentatively bigger companies who have rewritten their child labour policies and guidelines. And in those guidelines, they've mainly or one of the big parts was to increase their expectations towards their business partners. So that's the importers, for the retailers that is all kind of the brands, et cetera, that they feature. And so this really affects then the smaller medium companies. So those expectations towards human rights due diligence to partners, due diligence are hitting the smaller companies. And in my experience, to be very practical, I think actually smaller SMEs can make their size to their advantage. While big retailers will have to deal with thousands of potential manufacturers and suppliers, the smaller ones might deal with a small handful of numbers that they're already sourcing from. And that really is actually to their advantage because they can focus and we've seen, so we've working with one of our partners that is a, they are part of our working group and which is one good way of smaller companies to become part of multi-stakeholder initiative and bring into voice there, and find others to kind of tackle those challenges together. Secondly they've put aside a small budgets. Their ESG (environmental, social and government) department is one person that but put aside I think it's $10,000 a year. They have probably around six key manufacturers in the world that they're working with. And every year they single out one and invest those 10,000 US dollars to strengthen their capacity, to work with them. They, for example, have set up long-lasting programs in those suppliers to support migrant parents workers. They have set up long-lasting parents, programs to support afterschool centres for children. So they just found their very practical areas where they could make those changes even if their budgets are not in the hundreds and thousands of dollars. And so we really see that I think both from what they have to do in order to be able to make business and be part of this bigger industry, but also what is possible that there's a lot of possibilities with SMEs, and the loss or the big supply chain laws that target mainly the bigger companies, they will still have an impact on those SMEs. And I think, therefore, many feel also the necessity to step up and strengthen their systems.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great. And just that, sort of a follow-up question, Ines, is that I'm interested in hearing from you about your centres work with the companies to conduct child rights impact assessments.

Ines Kaempfer: Yeah. So I've already hinted to a couple of things that we're doing with companies. But there's a lot of things we're doing, and different things with companies depending on where they are in their journey and what their needs are. But one of the things is supporting companies to better understand their supply chain to create some of that transparency that has been so difficult to achieve lately. So we do a lot of child rights risk assessments where we drilling down depending on risk areas. Sometimes we start bigger, sometimes we drill down from the beginning to really understand where are your risks. What is the situation in your supply chain? And then create a set of follow-ups and very practical measures. Those practical measures go from kind of preventative measures on awareness building making sure we have the systems in factories, in particular to prevent child labour but also preventing some of the root causes. As I mentioned, one thing to call out, for example, that we work with factories to set up afterschool centres that then our factory runs. So we don't run them, the factories run them, and that allows children to stay in school longer. And, for example, for many children during COVID, these afterschool centres have become very important because there were not the after-school centres, they were just the only centres [chuckle] that the children had available. But it helps to keep children from dropping out of school and coming into child labour situations. And then the third I would say big area of work is that we do work strongly on remediation with the factories which I think is probably something that is often hard to find -- sorry, not with the factories, the companies -- so if any company finds child labour issues anywhere in their supply chain, no matter the level, we are there to work with the companies to set a remediation process that can be collective or individual in place that allows the companies to really tackle and react to that and ensure that maybe some of the damage that has been done. But that is in my view also not totally preventable. So my perspective is to be honest that every company who will look very closely will find child labour issues in their supply chains. And I think what makes or what distinguishes more responsible companies from the others is that the more responsible ones will know about that, and have a system to follow up on this. And so we have a system, a kind of a global child labour mitigation system in place and companies basically call us. And I think we just had to, we have a big case coming or it seems to be a big challenge coming up in Bangladesh. So we just put together I think 10 of our case managers and assessors who will go out to a set of factories tomorrow in Bangladesh where child labour has been identified. And so that is this kind of part of the very practical remediation work that we are doing.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great. Thank you so much in us, Ines. Tulika, over to you. How can companies take a holistic approach to tackling child labour and avoid merely a focus on compliance risk management?

Tulika Bansal: Thank you, Sheri. A few things were already mentioned by Ines. But what I've seen in the past is that child labour is very often seen very much from a compliance perspective, an issue that needs to be addressed as soon as possible. And to be able to tick the box that there is no child labour present anymore because that is really seen as one of the greatest issues that can be found. And it's really an issue that you don't want to fail at as part of a social audit. However, companies, should realize that when there's child labour this often has many causes that should be addressed at the root and requires for the company not only looking at the finding of child labour alone, but why it exists. And putting in place a proper system to address this a program, that takes time. So companies should be looking at different issues, for example, access to education, family friendly policies, that the price that they pay to their workers for piece work or the wages that they pay more generally. It requires engagement with different stakeholders across the value chain both internally in the company but also externally including with child rights experts and child labour organizations. So it's not just something that you can tackle as a as a compliance issue that you can tick off the box. So to summarize, it's not an issue that you can just comply with by law, but you need much more in place to address the issue of child labour.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Right, and I just want to sort of do a follow up. You talked about child rights and a focus on child rights. So I'm wondering why child labour needs to be framed within a broader child rights and human rights framework. Why is that important?

Tulika Bansal: Well, first of all, children's rights are a part of the broader human rights framework. And we should realize that children are differently impacted than adults due to their physique. And, therefore, their rights should be taken into consideration differently than adults. So therefore it's really important that when companies look at their human rights impacts, they should specifically consider assess and address children's rights issues and drawing in child rights expertise. However, child labour and other children's rights impacts are often the results of other bigger picture, a larger human rights picture, so cannot be seen completely separately. So earlier on I mentioned, for example, the payment of wages. If a company doesn't pay a living wage then there is a chance that they'll involve their children at work. Or if you have people that work from home, and you have a piece rate, then there is a chance that they involve their children. If there is no creche for children at the factory then maybe they'll bring their children to work. If there is no school, then there is a bigger chance that children are involved. So you have to look at the bigger picture both from the company perspective, but also the government perspective. Because they are, for example, the ones that have to provide adequate schooling or schools that are accessible or not too expensive. And if all of this doesn't exist, this can lead to children's rights impacts that affect garment workers. And one other point that I wanted to mention is why we have to look at children's rights and child labour in the bigger human rights context is the issue that you mentioned, Sheri, when they opened is the developments that we're seeing at the moment regarding mandatory human rights due diligence legislation. For the garment sector, specifically, this is important, being a sector with a long complex supply chain that exists across different countries and regions, meaning that companies that are domiciled in the EU or other countries that already have or soon will have such legislation will be applied to practice human rights due diligence. So to identify and address human rights issues they find, and these will include children's rights issues and companies will have to be prepared for this development as the responsibility to respect human rights, and children's rights is soon going to become mandatory rather than being voluntary.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great. Thanks, Tulika. And it was helpful for you to zoom it out, just so we could see how child rights or child labour fits within child rights and human rights. I want to now sort of focus in a little bit on how do children who work do their role within their lives. So, Claire, do children see positives. If so what practices and policies can garment companies implement to enhance these positive aspects of child work? What's the perspective of children who work?

Claire O'Kane: Yeah, I mean the perspectives are super diverse and in the 'It's time to talk' research, we had kind of focus group discussions and activities with over 1800 working children across 36 countries. Some of these children were involved in textile, carpet and weaving industries but a lot were [Inaudible Speaker ] in a real kind of variety. And their kind of motivations and reasons and their views on what they like and what they don't like. They were just numerous, and, again, depending on what they were doing in terms of motivations, while some felt really forced to compelled for work due to poverty and family hardship, a number of children really were actively involved in that decision, in the decision to work and wanted to help families to earn money towards the basic needs. And a number of the children actually earning money to continue their education. So there's a much more nuanced and complex relationship between school, education and work that I think really needs to be better understood. They were clear that they --- didn't want to do work but there [inaudible] business violence that's exploitative or that disrupted their education, but they also have [inaudible] really expressed a lot of things they [inaudible] like about their work. They felt really significant propulsion really emphasized that [inaudible] to help families, that they wanted to earn money to support, particularly, when families were in hardship conditions. But, again, in a lot of settings not just earn money, but to just seeing themselves as a member of the household, so they should be helping out. A number also shared  how they gained skills through their work. And, again, they typically liked it when the money earned has helped them continue education. But, again, they were very clear on the types of work. And it wasn't just about the type of work but, again, the working conditions. So they really wanted the work to ensure -- they liked it when there was --- respectful communication, whether it was with an employer, with their parents [inaudible] when work wasn't, was light enough, so they had enough time to study, for them to play, when there was skill to the work. So they really didn't want to do work that was like just repetitive. And then those skills and, particularly, they liked it when the work was aligned with what they wanted to become in the future. And so they saw it as a kind of helping them meet their kind of aspirations. And when they were paid decently or had other benefits, if there was health support, or if there was food provided in the workplace, for example, and when there was no violence. I mean interesting, and then there's gender dimensions. So girls, particularly, in a number of the settings said they preferred work they could do from home rather than having to work on the street where they faced a lot more exposure to sexual harassment and abuse outside the home. And children also really emphasized that they're able to have to work in conditions when they're heard, when they're [inaudible] adults ask them what work, they don't want to do, and how much hours they thought they don't want to do. So children organized in their clubs who work in children's associations or movements, they felt more able to really defend their rights, and to have access to good work and prevent exploitation.

I mean it's really I think garment companies need to understand the actual local context the social, cultural, political, the economic context to what we've just talked about with the impact of COVID. That needs to be really understood in order to prevent exploitation and harmful work, especially now that the survival pressure and as you know the lack of access to education, the violence or disciminatory [inaudible] that's really going to impact on what children's options are and what families options are like. Empashized by the pandemic, we really need family-friendly policies and practices, and the existing policies and practice needs to be much better implemented and monitored. And looking at unexpected impact [inaudible] it might be for good intention but actually it might have even worse impact on children and families. And, again, this is emphasized by other panellists to really ensure decent working conditions for every worker. So that caregivers, mothers, fathers, grandparents, whoever's working have access to really decent pay that allows them to afford access to basic services and education and healthcare for their own children. And I think, again, making sure that young workers really have access to unions, to information about their rights, to complaint mechanisms within the workplace. And that the codes of conduct really, again, respect every worker and allow young workers as well as older workers to really have a say about what's going on within the workplace. And I think, again, within government and industry this includes these kind of codes of conduct and monitoring to be done not just in factories but seeing if there is work, if work is outsourced to home piece work, it  needs to include reaching young people in those contexts to really better understand what's going on [inaudible] to their views.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great, thanks Claire. You've given us a lot of ideas about lessons learnt in your work in facilitating child participation. I'm just wondering if you have anything more you'd like to say in this area of best practice that is growing, and how you would engage, how you're engaging them. How do you get them to participate? That might be something, do you have anything further to say on that? --- You mentioned [inaudible].

Claire O'Kane: Yeah. I mean there's a long history of children organizing themselves and being part of their own associations and movements, particularly in Latin America, and Africa, and Asia. So over 30 years' experience that [inaudible] working with children themselves, civil society organizations collaborating and accompanying those children. So I think it's important for government companies, for business sector to really better partner with those organizations who've got kind of access to really listen and support children to better defend their rights to hear what they want in terms of the kind of family-centred policies. Children just repeatedly asked - They want to be, they want to enter into dialogue with whether it's the government officials, the business leaders, whoever's there who's meant to be protecting their rights. And their rights include the right to be heard, and very few, very few duty-bearers really create a space for children to be heard. And to really consider their views, to take decisions based in their best interests. I think these issues either can be quite complex. So to really address issues that local -- [ Inaudible Speaker ] -- the actual consultation methods and [inaudible] just for the benefit of using really visual arts, creative methods, but also the real importance of supporting children's [inaudible] come together in their groups. Because they build trust with one another, they give a lot of solidarity to one another. And in that regular meeting is where they have the increasing confidence but also more power from the information they can access from their own analysis to organize their own kind of action and an advocacy initiatives. And I guess again linked is the need to work with caregivers because sometimes children, again, making sure they have enough say within the family. So how can you also come to support that kind of positive parenting side of it to really take their -- [Inaudible] -- give them opportunities to really be heard.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Fascinating. Thank you, Claire. So I just want to thank all the panellists for your illuminating perspectives on risks, barriers, and solutions. There's been a lot that's been put out there. I just like to now ask each of you to provide a couple of minutes of concluding points, or you can feel free to emphasize or respond to anything that came up as you listened to the perspectives of your colleagues. And I will give you each three minutes. And I'm going to suggest we go alphabetically by last name, so that'd Tulika, Ines, Claire and Claudia. So, Tulika, take us away.

Tulika Bansal: Thanks, Sheri. And thanks to all my co-panellists. It's been a pleasure to speak about this important topic and listen to your experiences. I think my message, key message from this whole session is that the importance of taking a holistic approach by not seeing child labour as an issue that needs to be addressed as fast as possible, as a compliance issue, but really embedding it as part of companies' human rights due diligence activities, and listening to children. We shouldn't think that children, because their children, are not important stakeholders. They are equally important, have different impacts than adults and need to be involved in the process with the involvement of an expert. Because we think that sometimes may think that we work with human rights, so we can also deal with children's rights the same way. But we cannot and have to adapt our approaches. And I wanted to just mention that today, the Danish Institute for Human Rights together with Danish Textile and Fashion, the industry association has published guidance on human rights due diligence in the garment sector. And I'll put the link to the report in the chat which can hopefully be useful guidance for garment companies in other contexts as well. Thank you.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great. Thanks, Tulika. Ines.

Ines Kaempfer: It's hard to follow as my message was so close. But I do think after all those discussions -- and thanks, everyone, for this contribution -- really, I don't think there is a contradiction or a conflict between compliance and tackling it as a child rights issue. So I think it's -- I know for companies, it's very important to be compliant, and particularly child labour, as I think Tulika mentioned it's a scary issue and companies want to make sure that that's not something that pops up. But I think by addressing it with this child rights perspective, we're putting the children first, and we are actually creating the better solutions. And the difference between that, just to elaborate a little bit on that -- so if I look at child labour from solely a compliance issue, I find a factory or subcontractor. I see child labour, I'm basically saying okay, I'm cutting you off, come along. I have business. And that's my remediation like I'm done, we no longer work. Maybe even like some companies go and burn the goods that have been produced with child labour. And then we're done. If we putting child rights in at the centre, we're really trying to understand what is the situation of those children? How old are they?  How many are they? How can we support them in this, in whatever our reaction is to ensure we are not making things worse, and maybe just cutting off a factory, for example, or a sub-contractor can make things worse. But really understanding, are there children that are in legal working age, that we can support to continue working legally, but under the right and decent working conditions. And are there children who should not be working, and to have to go back to school and we should support them there. And by really asking those questions. I think we create the much better solutions that are better for the children but at the end of the time, they also better for the business because they create much more sustainable long-lasting ways of tackling this. Business won't be able to sort child labour by themselves. It's an issue that goes far beyond the business. But I do think it has a very important role, and can be a very important stakeholder and changemaker, sometimes even faster than governments. And, therefore, I would encourage all of them to really put this child rights perspective at the front of their, the way they're tackling this difficult issue.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great. Thank you, Ines. Claire.

Claire O'Kane: Yeah. I mean it really builds upon over what Tulika and Ines have said and I think linked to what Ines was saying about the really understanding the local context. Again, we need government industries themselves and anyone in supporting that, they need to fund platforms to really listen to what other people themselves have to say, as well, as their caregivers. Because [inaudible] solutions that needed to improve their lives, give them access to quality education, again, as Ines said, give them access to decent working conditions for those that work, are legally able to work, but look at the kind of remediation or what support underage children need to again be in a better situation. I think not hide it. There's always that little compliance issue that people want to hide it away and not look at it or pretend it's not happening. And that can just really lead to worse situations for children and young people. But so can as Ines said the quick reaction of just putting children out. We know from previous research in Bangladesh and other locations that if factories just stop without proper process, actually children can end up in prostitution, and much more exploitative and harmful forms of work. So it's really, really crucial not to just try get a quick fix and pass the buck somewhere else because children will be worse. And you know we've talked about the child rights framework. We have to look at children's rights holistically, have the rights to survival. Particularly with this COVID pandemic that's really making it very crucial for families to survive, and see together the survival, the protection for the participation, the development and what children and family solutions are for that. And, again, not just to have one off consultations but to really look at how we can have platforms for ongoing collaboration with --- children, young workers, families in each context linked to businesses and also linked to government officials who have, again, the responsibility and the duty to really preventand  protect children, and support them and their families. [ Inaudible ] -- again there's a number of issues here that need to be better understood if the particularities of how women, girls, mothers, are different affected than boys and men. [ Inaudible ] -- children with disabilities because again they face particular barriers and, again, support inclusive and relevant quality education.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great. Thank you, Claire. Claudia, last word to you.

Claudia Sandoval: Thank you. I think we all agree that this is a complex issue. And I'm really looking at it from a holistic perspective it's something that we totally agree, and we encourage really participation and collaboration from different stakeholders, government, unions, civil society, or organizations. In if we want to make a future or a bigger impact also looking at transparency, and traceability, and getting deeper into the supply chain, I think we can do great advance in that area. And we as Gildan, we are happy to share that experience working with Tier 2, Tier 3 factories. And I think it's important that we continue joining efforts to address and connecting with other sectors that have also looked at it and have a wealth of experience. So thanks. And it's obviously something that requires a lot of attention and the involvement of different stakeholders.  

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great. Thank you so much. It's now time to turn it over to the participant. The Q and A, as I said is on the bottom left-hand side of your screen. And if you'd have any, if there's anybody in the audience who likes to submit a question, please do. And while I'm waiting for those to come in, I do have a few questions that we've collected for the panellists that I'd like to throw out there. And these questions, you touched on it a little bit. But just hoping that in this Q and A, we can go a little bit deeper and the one, Claudia you had mentioned it, and others had mentioned it. But just the fact that there's these Tier 1s and Tier 2s, these different stages of the garment sector. So I'm wondering how are the challenges in ensuring transparency and promoting child rights different? How are they different in raw material production and in, opposed to manufacturing and distribution? So who would like to start with that, and people can jump in.

Ines Kaempfer: I can start with that. And hopefully, you guys will jump in.  But, obviously, the deeper we go, for one, the further away is the business relationship often to the consumer brand or the retailer that are the ones driving many of the ESG efforts in the supply chain. And the deeper we go or if we are in raw material settings, we're dealing often with very different units, we're dealing with, with kind of the intersection between the formal and informal sector. So if we are sourcing raw materials from farmers and suddenly your unit is not a factory of 2,000 workers, but your unit is a family with five or six workers. And so it does obviously become much more and more complex. The lower we go and often I think what we feel so much is that we don't have the walls around our production units anymore. And if we're going down the lower tiers we losing those walls, and it seems to become so much more difficult to tackle that. So there is definitely an increased level of challenge that we find there. But I think over again and particularly multi-stakeholder initiatives have shown that they that we can impact also those raw material areas. If we, particularly join hands if an industry comes together, and obviously the textile industry has been long working around cotton, and we can see that there are things really moving. I think there's a lot of new raw materials that need the same attention that cotton has received. The whole recycling industry I think will be a really important focus that we all should have in the next couple of years to understand where is the recycled plastic, or whatever material is coming from. Because that's a whole new kind of lower supply chain that we're finding there. But also other alternative materials that that government industry is using. I think fibre is becoming more important and to understand what are the origins of those. Where are they produced and what are the needs of these workers? And I think COVID has shown so clearly how important it is we know these things. So while it's more complicated, while it seems further away, I think that people are the same and if they're impacted, and we've seen it in COVID where suddenly supply chains fell apart. And we got calls from natural fibre producers saying the factory that we produced for has closed because the stores in Europe are closed. And now we have no more income. We've worked for this factory for the last 25 years. We made an average of $5 a day through that work. Now our income has dropped to under $1. And most of this -this was just the one community that luckily we've worked with before. But most of those communities, you don't have somebody to call and tell them that. So if the business is not aware of the supply chains, and is not aware of how those things link together, anytime we have those risks and interruptions whether that's conflict, and whether that's a pandemic -- hopefully we won't have more -- but whatever the issue is, natural disaster, then these things just kind of fold together. And people are losing their livelihoods and are literally starving. So I mean I'm making this example just to remind us and how important it is we understand the different tiers, and how important it is we have a good sense of where our things are coming from. Even if it takes some effort, even if it does seem a bit scary to start with. I think there are solutions out there, and we just need to kind of dare to go into it.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great, anyone else like to add to that? Very good, Ines.

Claire O'Kane: Maybe just not [inaudible] to the tier bit but I think it's interesting what it is we're saying about the focus and need to increasingly focus on recycle, because we also know in a lot of countries there's children who are the [inaudible] majority of waste collectors gathering anything that's got any resale value. So I think again that opens up another bigger group of children who really need to be better understood and supported and to be able to have the opportunity to really support them. Often [inaudible] exposes them to health risks, and health issues, [inaudible]. I think yeah it gets far more complex. The more responsibility where we need to be the kind of more complex it gets, but I think it's just really crucial again to that point to again collaborate with children to better understand their situation and their own solutions to support responsible business.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great. Anyone else who would like to add to this question?

Claudia Sandoval: I think that there is a good momentum to connect those initiatives. Now that Ines was mentioning ESG's on the spectrum and looking at environmental recycling topics and how children might get involved in that processes. So connecting with those industries, agriculture, I think the garment industry can benefit as well in have more impactful efforts in addressing or focusing on children's rights.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Great. Thank you. I just am noticing the time, and I can see that we're coming to our end. A couple of our panellists have a hard stop at quarter past the hour. So I just like to take this opportunity to wrap up. I want to thank the OECD for providing us with this space to host this important discussion. And, of course, to all of our panellists -- Ines, Tulika, Claire, and Claudia for all of your thoughtful reflections and remarks. And, lastly, thanks to all our participants who have tuned into this webinar from across the world. I think we've had an opportunity today to look at what the risks are. I heard education come up a lot, and I think that's both a problem and it's a way to address some of these issues. I think listening to children and understanding the situation from their perspective, and not just bailing because you've found child labour in your supply chain but trying to look at what is really going on and what might really help. So taking the time, slowing down, and taking the time to address child rights in a unique way, a way that that's different from how you would treat other human rights because they have unique needs and situations. So, anyway, I just want to thank everybody for joining us, and we look forward to further discussions on this very, very important issue. Thank you.

Claire O'Kane: Thank you.


Tulika Bansal: Thanks, everyone.

Claudia Sandoval: Thank you.

Ines Kaempfer: Thanks so much. Bye.

Tulika Bansal: Thank you.

Sheri Meyerhoffer: Bye-bye.

Report a problem on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, please contact us.

Date Modified: