Fair Wear is yet again pleased to be part of a yet again thought-provoking and inspiring OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector. 

Day 1 started with an inspiring opening by António Ferreira Gomes, OECD Deputy Director Directorate for Financial and Enterprise Affairs, stating that “Due diligence is a key building block for safer and greener jobs and livelihoods.” He also highlighted the urgency for “knowledge and capacity building on risk-based due diligence on a global and regional level, allowing for tailored approaches for different challenges.”

Binding company-union agreements and their role in due diligence

The first plenary session on ‘Binding company-union agreements and their role in due diligence’ identified and addressed human rights risks in the supply chain. Fair Wear strongly agrees that brands engaging directly with trade unions and entering into a commitment with them and the suppliers create a more equal balance of power. This is particularly important because the industry is characterised by power imbalances, making it exploitative at its core.

Brand due diligence strategies for living wages

The panelists at this session crucially aligned on the urgency for long-term relationships and equal partnerships as drivers for living wages. As Prathika K., Senior Manager of Factory Compliance at SanMar shared, “We call our factories partners; it’s a two-way street. Unless we keep our end of the bargaining, we can’t ask more from factories. You give, and you get.”

Filip Stefanovic, Policy Advisor at Trade Union Advisory Committee (TUAC) to the OECD, added that social dialogue and empowering workers are essential for achieving system-wide impact. Ilishio Lovejoy, ESG General Manager at Simple Approach, correctly stated: “We should be talking about enabling. How do we enable the payment of a living wage?”

Low prices are the primary cause of labour violations and unsustainable low wages. Therefore, responsible purchasing practices, as defined in the Common Framework for Purchasing Practices (CFRPP), are essential. Brands must provide the means to enable manufacturers to improve working conditions, which includes paying prices that sufficiently cover all costs of production and enable the payment of living wages.

Day 2 started with a panel session on the role of certifications in due diligence. Sheela Ahluwalia, Director of Policy & Advocacy at Transparentem, stated, “Audits do not equal due diligence.” Panelists agreed that audits, a snapshot of a particular moment, play a limited role in due diligence. They concluded that collaboration, transparency and equal relationships among stakeholders are key to implementing due diligence moving beyond certification. As Ahluwalia made clear, “A fundamental change is needed. Companies must ensure that workers have freedom of association. Without this, we can assume audits won’t uncover the truth”.

Exploring access to remedy for workers across grievance mechanisms

The highlight of the day was the parallel session on ‘Exploring access to remedy for workers across grievance mechanisms’ with Fair Wear’s own Liselotte Goemans taking the stage. The discussion focused on the accessibility and complementarity of grievance mechanisms in an evolving regulatory landscape. Kirstine Drew, Chief Complaints Officer, Pakistan Accord, highlighted, “Protection from retaliation is extremely important. Workers must be able to trust the mechanism and use it without fear.”

Liselotte Goemans elaborated on Fair Wear complaints mechanism, designed as a safety net when all other options fail or aren’t trusted by workers. “Accessibility is key. You don’t have a grievance mechanism if the rightsholders don’t know about you. We have our local teams, who speak the local language, hence the workers can really communicate, talk and complain in a language they feel comfortable in.” This was echoed by Kristina Ampeva, President of Glasen Tekstilec, that workers are trusting and using the mechanism. She accurately stated that for impact on workers, the prevailing power imbalance needs to be addressed.


For the past 25 years, Fair Wear has connected and convened brands, factories, workers, trade unions, NGOs and other industry influencers and built strong multistakeholder networks across the whole value chain. Pushing for sector alignment, Fair Wear membership, and the recently launched HRDD Academy enable brands to raise the bar for human rights in the garment industry. The sessions and talks from the past week only highlight the need and urgency for sector alignment, harmonisation and collaboration to be able to truly impact workers’ rights on a large scale.