ECCHR recently released a report focused on the impact of COVID-19 on the garment industry. With the onset of the pandemic, the response of many global brands and retailers was to instantly cancel orders for goods already produced or in the process of being produced. This had a massive impact on the workers with 72.4 percent of suppliers reporting that they were unable to provide income to their furloughed workers and over 95% of suppliers reported no support from brands and retailers to cover the costs.
These statistics reveal the power imbalances between suppliers and consumer-facing brands which result in the global companies being able to set the rules unilaterally with grave consequences for workers and suppliers. Through the mechanisms of the supply chain, companies are able to shift the responsibility of worker’s social rights and disregard human rights obligations.
The paper takes a look at the international frameworks and policies for implementing corporate due diligence – International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs). Both of these call for the protection of social and economic rights with the UN Guidelines imposing an obligation for the remedy of harm in respect to cases of violating human rights. The paper examines the situation prior to the COVID-19 pandemic which is characterised by unequal power dynamics and a disregard for due with companies using loopholes to shirk their responsibilities. It also examines the current situation calling for companies to honor contracts signed and to exercise human rights due diligence.
The paper concludes calling on the European governments and decision-makers to introduce obligatory and enforceable due diligence legislation in order to prevent unfair trading practices.
You can read the full report here.