Stop Child Labour welcomes positive steps by shoe companies – much remains to be done

After a slow start a year ago at this moment 27 of the 28 companies have finally engaged with Stop Child Labour and provided information on their policies and practices on combating child labour and their CSR policies more generally. Quite a few companies have informed us that they will take additional steps to prevent and combat child labour and/or be more transparent about this. Some have already taken concrete steps to this end. The latter varies from simply publishing the code of conduct on their website, mapping of sub-contractors and improving their audit system to making sure that child labour is eradicated and remediation is in place for working children found.  

Child labour in footwear production

In June 2012 Stop Child Labour released an overall report on child labour in footwear production worldwide: ‘Where the shoe pinches’ by SOMO, the Dutch Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations. According to the report children aged 12 to 14 are involved in the production of leather shoes in countries like Brazil, China, Vietnam and India. They tan and process leather, glue shoe soles or sew parts together. The shoes are exported to international shoe brands which also cater to the European market. On the basis of this report, including a case-study in India, Stop Child Labour again requested footwear companies to provide information on their policy and practices to prevent and tackle child labour in their full supply chain.

Footwear companies connected with child labour

During field research in India multiple indications of child labour were found that were linked to the supply chain of international shoe companies. In a revised report, published in October, it was highlighted that many companies run a high risk that child labour occurs in their supply chain. This is particularly the case when production takes place in countries with a high prevalence of child labour and when production is sub-contracted, which is frequently the case.

Four companies were specifically mentioned – Bata, Clarks, Bugatti and & Marks Spencer – as there were indications to connect these companies with child labour in their supply chain. At the level of 2nd or 3rd tier suppliers child labour was found that could be linked to the four companies mentioned. The companies were already informed about these findings in June, as were some other footwear companies, but they had not responded or too late for the October report. All four companies have now started an internal investigation and informed Stop Child Labour about the outcome.

Publicity and political action in The Netherlands

The campaign has received quite some attention in the Netherlands. Several national newspapers and websites have written about the ‘shoe campaign’. Also questions where raised in Dutch Parliament by a range of parties representing a majority. On December 4 these questions were answered by the Minister of International Trade and Development Cooperation. The Minister promised to organize a meeting with Stop Child Labour and some Dutch footwear companies.

Campaign to be continued

Stop Child Labour will continue with the campaign in 2013 and has sent a letter to all companies with the message that they will be requested to inform us by mid 2013 about the steps they have taken and the progress made with regard to combating child labour in their full supply chain.

Mr. Scribble – a tool for consumers

Through the online action tool ‘Mr. Scribble’ consumers can check the opinion of Stop Child Labour about the different companies based on the cooperation and assessment. Consumers can also send a message to companies to ask for further actions or to give a ' thumbs up ' if they are already taking good steps to actively combat child labour in their supply chain.

 

>> Download the recently updated report with an overview and assessment of policies and implementation of footwear companies (pdf).

>>  Download the SOMO-report ‘Where the shoe pinches’ (pdf).