Societal Sustentation 48: Workers’ Rights

Now, as we discussed in our original damnation post, this shouldn’t be a damnation because worker’s rights are a good thing, and, assuming one is ethical, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with giving workers the respect and rights they deserve. The problem is, as we previously stated, is that, in the corporate world, not everyone is ethical. Not only do we have to deal with the fact that 1% of the population are psychopaths, but the fact that the top four professions that attract psychopaths are the people who run the corporate world, namely:

  • CEOs
  • Lawyers
  • Media / Publicists / PR / Marketers
  • Salespeople

The only other profession absolutely necessary for a company of any size to survive is an accountant to keep the boxes and make sure they are in order when the tax man comes knocking. In a nutshell, your company is evil, and the only real question is how evil on the scale from skim a bit off the top to sell guns to a known guerrilla group that will use them to commit mass genocide.

And if your company is just a little bit evil, then you know for sure that somewhere, lurking in the shadows of your supply chain, is an organization that is likely so evil that it is using child labour, slave labour, and mistreating both in the process. One has to remember that not all countries have good workers’ rights laws, and this is true of developing countries in particular, and anywhere the men with guns and money have more power than the elected officials, it doesn’t always matter what laws are on the books.

All that matters is that, with the introduction of various anti-human trafficking acts around the world, such as the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act and the UK Modern Slavery Act, if your supply chain uses slave labour, your company is on the hook. Thus, as a Procurement professional, you have to be sure your supplier is compliant, and that they make their suppliers compliant.

And forcing your suppliers to sign a paper that they will comply with your fair labour and fair wage policies isn’t enough, especially if they are outsourcing the work or using multiple locations (unbeknownst to you who only sees the primary “show” location which, just like a model home, isn’t the real thing).

First of all, you investigate them through third parties. Contact companies like Ecovadis and Sedex Global that collect and collate third party and NGO data on suppliers to see a history of their sustainability and ethical practices. Make sure there have been recent audits by trustworthy third party organizations that advocate worker’s rights and that those reviews have passed, contacting additional organizations if you need to. Force the supplier to sign a contract stating that they are fully aware of the regulations you must conform to with respect to worker’s rights and that not only will they follow and adhere to all regulations for their workforce, but that they will only work with suppliers who accept the same. Moreover, they accept full legal liability should they fail to do so and are responsible for all costs borne by your organization should workers’ rights violations occur, be it fines from a government organization, legal defense costs, or reimbursement for goods seized. (And make sure the contract is legally binding in their country and that you can enforce it in their court of law.)

Secondly, monitor on an ongoing basis. Maintain a subscription to at least one organization that regularly reviews, and collates ethical data on, the supplier in question and monitor for any indications that not all may be above-board.

Third, include a mandatory provision that the contract may be immediately terminated for breaches of mandatory worker and human rights by them or any supplier in their supply chain. And don’t be afraid to follow through and shift demand to the secondary supplier the minute a breach is confirmed.

It’s probably not enough, but it’s a start.