Statement of Principles for Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR)
We, the undersigned, committed to a vision of a just workplace where every worker is assured dignity, decent conditions, and the right to organize, recognize that effective programs to protect the rights of workers in contracted supply chains must be based on agreements between global corporations and worker organizations that embody the following principles:
- Labor Rights Initiatives Must Be Worker-Driven: Workers are the only actors in the supply chain with a vital and abiding interest in ensuring their rights are protected. If, therefore, a program intended to improve their situation is to work, workers and their representative organizations – global, national or local labor unions, worker-based human rights organizations, or other organizations that genuinely represent workers’ interests – must be at the head of the table in creating and implementing the program, including its priorities, design, monitoring, and enforcement. An initiative’s labor standards must be based on universal labor and human rights principles, which are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and defined by the Conventions of the ILO.
- Obligations for Global Corporations Must Be Binding and Enforceable: Respect for human rights in corporate supply chains cannot be optional or voluntary. Effective enforcement is key to the success of any social responsibility program. Worker organizations must be able to enforce the commitments of brands and retailers as a matter of contractual obligation.
- Buyers Must Afford Suppliers the Financial Incentive and Capacity to Comply: Corporations at the top of supply chains place constant price pressure on their suppliers, which inexorably translates into downward pressure on wages and labor conditions: the market incentivizes abuse. Corporations must instead be required to incentivize respect for human rights through a price premium, negotiated higher prices, and/or other financial inducements that enable suppliers to afford the additional cost of compliance with the agreed labor standards.
- Consequences for Non-Compliant Suppliers Must Be Mandatory: The obligations of global brands and retailers must include the imposition of meaningful, swift, and certain economic consequences for suppliers that violate their workers’ human rights, whether or not ending the supplier relationship suits the economic and logistical convenience of the brand or retailer. Only programs that include such economic consequences can ensure protection for workers.
- Gains for Workers Must be Measurable and Timely: The ability of brands and retailers to obscure the failure of voluntary labor rights initiatives is greatly aided by the absence from these initiatives of the obligation to achieve concrete, measurable outcomes at the workplace level within specific time-frames. To ensure accountability, any program designed to correct specific labor rights problems must include objectively measurable outcomes and clear deadlines.
- Verification of Workplace Compliance Must Be Rigorous and Independent: Workplace audits – often infrequent and perfunctory and never free of buyer influence – are the exclusive monitoring mechanism in traditional CSR programs and have proven inadequate time and again. Effective verification of supplier compliance is essential and must include the following components: inspectors who have deep knowledge of the relevant industry and labor issues and who operate independently of financial control and influence by buyers; in-depth worker interviews, carried out under conditions where workers can speak freely, as a central component of the process; effective worker education that enables workers to function as partners with outside inspectors; and a complaint resolution mechanism that operates independently of buyers and suppliers and in which workers organizations play a central role.
As endorsers, we recognize that an approach that embodies these principles, increasingly known as Worker-driven Social Responsibility (WSR), is the best model for ensuring respect for human rights in supply chains where workplace abuses are prevalent, and we commit to ensuring that less effective approaches are not promoted at the expense of the expansion of this model and the well-being of workers.
Check back soon for a list of endorsing organizations and individuals.