Shoe brands invited to fight forced labor in tanneries and ranches


LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Major footwear and designer clothing brands, including Nike and Puma, have made progress in tackling forced labor in their leather supply chains, but could do more to address the issue in tanneries and ranches supplying hides, study finds.

He raised particular concern about China’s largest shoe retailer, Belle International, which failed to provide any information about its leather supply chain in an investigation and made no commitments to improvement.

The survey of five shoe brands and five luxury clothing brands was conducted by KnowTheChain, a resource for businesses and investors looking to tackle forced labor in their supply chains.

He said information from the 10 companies generally revealed very little about how – other than auditing suppliers – they addressed the risks of forced labor in countries that produce hides, process leather and make leather goods. .

But he praised Adidas, saying the German sportswear maker had trained tanneries in Taiwan and China on how to manage the risks of forced labor and was taking action to address the risks among women. hide suppliers in Brazil and Paraguay.

Belle, which sells both its own brands and international brands, could not be reached immediately for comment.

Poor working conditions in leather supply chains have been well documented over the years, with evidence from countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and India revealing abusive practices, including child labor, according to study.

He noted that workers at shoe factories in China – the world’s largest shoe producer – said they were forced to work overtime. Punishments for those who refused included reduction in benefits or demotion.

The study indicated that forced labor was a significant problem on cattle ranches in Brazil, the world’s largest skin-producing country, with young men finding themselves in debt bondage after being brought to plantations by brokers. in labor.

“We believe that all of the companies in our case study source or potentially source hides from Brazil and / or produce leather goods from China, therefore are exposed to countries where we know the risks of forced labor are the most important, ”the report said.

However, he said shoe brands were generally making progress, in part thanks to increased scrutiny.

Nike, the largest of the five shoe companies, has been praised for leading the way in disclosing workforce information in its supply chains.

The study also highlighted the grievance mechanisms put in place by Puma for supplier workers in China, which include an SMS service and another through a popular social media network.

KnowTheChain called on companies to join forces to eradicate forced labor in leather supply chains, and suggested they collaborate with industries outside the sector such as meat companies and other leather users like automobile industry.

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