In a recent survey conducted by the Clean Clothes Campaign, five Nordic fashion brands — H&M, Lindex, Varner, Gina Tricot and KappAhl — reported that four out five had legally identified only a handful of Syrian refugees working for their suppliers, Supply Management reported Tuesday.
The survey further stated that of the five, only H&M and Varner were taking positive steps toward reducing illegal workers in their sourcing; Lindex was addressing the issue, while Gina Tricot and KappAhl had yet to show that they investigate or work to prevent risk of employing refugees illegally.
Of the estimated 250,000 to 400,000 Syrian refugees that entered Turkey since the beginning of 2016, only 7,000 have received proper working permits. As a byproduct, illegal workers will be subject to substandard pay and dangerous working conditions.
The Clean Clothes Campaign is the latest 3rd party organization attempting to shed light on human rights abuses in the supply chain. With a focus on the Syrian refugee crisis that has impacted Europe, the aim is to not only draw attention to the situation, but to raise the basic standards for companies to follow in their sourcing within second-tier suppliers.
As Supply Chain Dive has worked to highlight over the past few months, the apparel industry presents fertile grounds for hiding human rights abuses within the chain. Recently, San Francisco-based non-profit KnowTheChain released company rankings for apparel and footwear manufacturers to examine how companies are working to eliminate forced labor. For those companies, with Adidas leading the way, their commitment to oversight and audit of second-tier suppliers and subcontractors has been essential to removing exploitation.
However, the problem that Clean Clothes Campaign and KnowTheChain still face is that they lack any legal authority to provoke change. What they offer to solving the problem is of value, but without cooperation with local regulatory agencies, corporate governance, and consumer preference, their reporting has limited impact. Furthermore, companies who seek audits from outside agencies — on its face a good strategy — still suffers from an inherent conflict of interest. As long as those companies are the ones funding the audit, there will be an inherent bias toward delivering pre-determined narratives that is more likely to minimize non-compliance while publicly promoting progress in eradicating human rights abuses.