Question 2 – what should global supply chain governance look like?
Firstly, through increased transparency. Brands need to disclose their supply lists, factories, parent companies, everything, and they need to be clear in their business agreements with their suppliers. Second, the brands need to apply their codes of conduct seriously in terms of the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining. Short-term contracts, if we look at the ILO guidelines, should only be used for two kinds of work: substitutional and seasonal work. So brands need to commit themselves to eliminating the use of these contracts. And brands need to respond effectively to any form of discrimination against union rights. There should be consistent communication between consumers and workers.
Question 5 – what are the benefits and drawbacks of global supply chains as a 'model' for production and development?
Global supply chains mean that workers are not alone. Workers in producing countries can be connected to consumers and to other workers in other places. There is a link, and this is good. In the garment sector, for example, such links provide great opportunities for solidarity and positive change. It’s a powerful thing when we connect the workers at the factory level all the way through the levels of transport, warehousing, port, and shops and consumers. Workers can become empowered to demand the things promised by multinational corporations.
However, global supply chains as they are currently organised are not transparent. It is very hard to track the supply chain. Subcontracting is used by employers at all levels to try to avoid legal responsibility for workers and working conditions. Business owners and policy makers are joining hands to exploit workers. Policy makers don’t invest back in communities, but they draw huge benefits from businesses. The brands definitely have control of and power over supply chains. They set prices, and set them too low, pushing suppliers to exploit their workers. They also go to the government and push for policies that are anti-worker, and are always seeking to find cheaper and cheaper labour – making producing countries compete in a ‘race to the bottom’.