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Fair Wear Foundation director Erica van Doorn participated in the panel on Textiles during the Dutch EU Presidency Conference on Global Value Chains on 7 December 2015.
The meeting, in the run-up to the Dutch EU Presidency, brought together high-level representatives of the European Union and European governments, members of the European Parliament, industry, international and civil society organisations to discuss global value chains like palm oil, gold, the financial sector, and agro-commodities in addition to textiles.
Fair Wear Foundation strives to be a veritable multi-stakeholder initiative, one that is able to engage with governments, companies, international organisations, trade unions, workers, and production sites to promote change.
This meeting allowed FWF to point out several important issues, such as the need for a level playing field for all companies. “If we have clear rules, for example, on transparency, then we are creating a level playing field where companies can still compete,” said van Doorn.
During the lively session that included pro and con voting by the audience on different topics, Van Doorn also emphasised the need for cooperation. Costing, she said, “should include the social and environmental costs of production, and that cannot be achieved without the involvement of all stakeholders.”
Other panellists agreed that the next CSR strategy of the European Union should include support for multi-stakeholder initiatives, but without forgetting the specific characteristics of sectors and of geographies. Moreover, the advances of already existing programmes, ILO’s Better Work was given as an example, should be complemented, to promote capacity building at the local level.
As a final note, van Doorn shone a light on an under-reported problem in the textile and garment industry around the world: workplace violence against women. And with this concrete example of an endemic and continuing problem, participants reflected on the issue of implementation. These measures need to be established within a framework of regulation, and implemented in ways that promote ownership by local stakeholders, without duplicating efforts or initiatives.
The audience was asked, for example, whether due diligence legislation should be further examined, to which most raised their green sheets to vote yes. To close the session, they were asked if the EU Responsible Business Conduct (RBC) Action Plan should bring together existing initiatives, and look into already existing best practices. And, amidst an enthusiastic show of green for yes, the panel came to an end.