"Promoting decent work worldwide through sustainable supply chains" – Andrea Nahles and Gerd Müller open international G7 stakeholder conference
Berlin – Andrea Nahles, Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, and Gerd Müller, Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, launched a joint "Supply Chains Standards" initiative with a two-day conference in Berlin that has been organised under the umbrella of Germany’s G7 presidency. With 88 days to go until the G7 summit at Schloss Elmau, they discussed proposals for implementing labour, social and environmental standards in global supply chains with representatives from governments, businesses, social partners, international organisations and civil society.
With this initiative Germany is sending a clear signal, making social responsibility and consideration for the environment in the global production of goods one of the top agenda items for the seven biggest industrialised countries.
"As industrialised countries we have the possibility to influence global production processes," Gerd Müller said. "If we don't want our hunger for consumer goods to be the cause of starvation wages in textile factories, child labour, rubbish tips full of electronic waste and poisoned rivers, then we must take political steps to promote fair trade. There are many levers for this. Germany has put this topic on the G7 agenda because together our countries have the market power and therefore also the responsibility to put an end to the exploitation of people and nature."
"Accidents at work and work-related diseases alone cost the global economy 2.8 trillion US dollars a year,” said Andrea Nahles. "That represents a loss of 4 per cent of the world’s GDP. We cannot and should not allow that to happen. Decent working conditions must be universal and global. That is why we are seeking to engage in dialogues with all stakeholders, from production countries and from importing countries, so that, working together, we can develop very concrete measures to ensure greater global compliance for internationally agreed and binding labour and social standards."
At the conference the two ministers presented a joint vision paper entitled "Good work worldwide". This paper describes the current challenges and emphasises the responsibility of industrialised and production countries, and of companies and consumers. In addition to that, the vision paper lists possible solutions for ensuring compliance with labour, social and environmental standards in supply chains.
The solutions comprise very concrete implementation steps to be agreed and coordinated between the G7 countries, such as
- Jointly advising producer countries, e.g. on the introduction of factory fire brigades or on training up labour inspectors;
- Establishing a "Vision Zero Fund" for global prevention, with the aim of reducing the number of people who are harmed by accidents at work as far as possible worldwide (e.g. by investing in fire safety measures, requisite training and accident insurance schemes);
- Promoting stakeholder alliances involving the private sector, civil society and trade unions for the implementation of agreed labour, social and environmental standards in all G7 countries;
- Giving small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in G7 countries better support so that they can take on social responsibilities along global supply chains;
- Improving complaints mechanisms and arbitration processes to help workers in production countries in situations where standards are not upheld; and
- More transparency for consumers in order to foster sustainable consumption. A concrete example is the German government’s new information portal and app: www.siegelklarheit.de (in German). Consumers can check out widely used environmental and social labels – initially in the textile sector, but at a future date in other sectors too – before making a purchase.
The BMAS and BMZ vision paper can be found here (PDF, 1.5MB, accessible).