Fair Wear at UN Forum on Business and Human Rights: constructive dialogue as a form of leverage

During the 2015 United Nations Forum on Business and Human Rights, FWF’s Head of Verification Margreet Vrieling spoke about how FWF and its member brands are exploring ways to actively contribute to remediation of labour rights violations.

One of the key questions discussed during the lively panel discussion—moderated by Business and Human Rights expert Mark Taylor of the Norwegian institute Fafo—was to what extent the limited leverage companies have with the factories is a barrier to achieving improvements.

Margreet argued that leverage is much more than a percentage: even brands that are, on paper, insignificant customers of a given factory, can have a significant positive impact by creating a constructive dialogue with their supplier, showing long-term commitment and an open mind to sharing the burden of making improvements.

Scott Nova of the Worker Rights Consortium, who was also on the panel, went even further: brands know exactly how to use their leverage, he argued, when it comes to getting the product they want, within the time limit they want, and at the quality they want. So the inability to achieve improved labour conditions is a question of priorities, not of leverage, he argued.

To this, Margreet added that brand practices are crucial: lead times, pricing and collaborative production planning are just a few examples of things brands can change to reduce overtime, help increase wages and provide the order stability factories need to invest in safe, healthy workplaces.

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