Industry and entrepreneurship

OECD Forum on Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment & Footwear Sector


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

Wednesday 13 February 2019 - Paris

(As prepared for delivery)



Madame la Ministre Brune Poirson, Secrétaire d’État auprès du ministre de la Transition écologique et solidaire, Ladies and Gentlemen,

May I also greet in particular, Ms Kaufmann, our new Chair of the OECD’s Working Party on Responsible Business Conduct. I am sure she is as delighted as I am to welcome over 400 representatives from governments, business, trade unions and civil society at this 5th annual OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector. 

You have come from over 40 countries, including Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, and Lesotho. Your presence here is a testament of our shared mission to develop lasting solutions for ensuring responsible business conduct in this critical sector that employs millions of workers across the globe.

Enterprises operating in the sector have the potential to generate growth, employment and skills development, if and only if they ensure responsible operations and sourcing in their supply chains. Unfortunately, human rights and labour abuses as well as harm to the environment by enterprises remain prevalent throughout the supply chain in this sector.

Let me highlight just a few of the challenges you are going to be discussing over the next two days.

Global supply chains face critical challenges

First, we urgently need progress on the issue of purchasing practices. Poor purchasing practices by buyers and retailers mean up to 22% lower wages for workers. Responsible pricing, on the other hand, is associated with nearly 10% higher wages. Fortunately, the link between purchasing practices and wages is no longer in dispute, but we need to make more concrete progress in implementing OECD recommendations in this area. This challenge also has a strong gender inclusion dimension, when you recall that in this sector up to 85% of the workforce is female.

Second, in addition to wage concerns, forced labour and the extortion of migrant workers remain one of the most devastating issues in global supply chains, including the apparel sector. In some contexts, international migrant workers account for 75% of the workforce. These workers are more exposed to certain forms of forced labour, particularly those with an irregular status. In particular, migrant workers may be vulnerable to coercion through the withholding of documents like passports and more at risk from debt-induced forced labour due to recruitment fees owed to labour brokers. This serves as a painful reminder of the precarious, bleak and unfulfilling lives lived by so many workers in the garment and footwear sector.

Third, we should also not lose sight of the environmental urgency. Garment and footwear production generates between 5 and 10% of global pollution impacts and accounts for an estimated 8% of global climate impacts. Applying a risk-based due diligence approach to climate change is critical. To help lead a discussion on this topic, I am pleased that The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has joined us for this Forum.

We still have a long way to go in ensuring appropriate working conditions for all and sustainable global value chains. But thanks to many of you in this room, we have made important progress, particularly in terms of the uptake of our due diligence tools.


In spite of these challenges, we have made important progress

An increasing number of companies, governments and industry initiatives are aligning their policies with the OECD Garment Due Diligence Guidance. Examples include the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garment and Textile, and the German Partnership for Sustainable Textiles.

We’ve also seen progress on due diligence across regions. I am pleased to announce today our new partnership with the Confederation of Indian Industry, Indian businesses and global apparel brands to promote a Pan-Indian sector-wide approach to due diligence. We will also work during this year with the Chinese apparel sector as part of our new project with the EU and ILO on Responsible Supply Chains in Asia.

Global supply chains are by their very nature a multilateral challenge. Only deeper, more effective, more ambitious international co-operation on due diligence and responsible business conduct can transform lives and opportunities at every stage of the supply chain.

This is why the OECD is working with the ILO on the Global Deal, which is a multi-stakeholder partnership to address challenges in the global labour market and enhance social dialogue to enable all people to benefit from globalisation.

We are collaborating in “Alliance 8.7” – a global partnership to eradicate forced labour, modern slavery, human trafficking and child labour – by putting this issue front and centre at key global Fora, including in the G20.

And of course, just last year, we launched the OECD Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Business Conduct. This general tool complements the Due Diligence Guidance for the Garment and Footwear and the other guidance we have developed for other specific sectors and supply chains, including minerals, agriculture, extractives and finance.

These are essential instruments that have helped drive encouraging advances, but to understand if our actions are really making a difference, we need to measure impact. That is the broad focus of this Forum. If we can analyse the impact of our policies, we can more easily adapt them to rapidly evolving markets. This is essential to measure and promote the contributions companies can make to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. The OECD is committed to continue working with you – companies, governments, civil society – to identify such approaches and to measure their impact.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Over the next day and a half, we will share the lessons-learned and the ongoing challenges of applying due diligence to forced labour, hazardous chemicals, climate change and child rights, to name just a few. We will evaluate progress on mainstreaming responsible purchasing practices into buying practices. And we will explore new themes and new approaches to challenges, such as bribery and corruption in the apparel supply chain and responsible investment in emerging export markets.

Let’s work hand-in-hand to avoid “competing” standards on labour, human rights and environment. I thus urge you to align your efforts with OECD due diligence recommendations for the garment sector.

The OECD stands ready to work with you and for you to further transform this vibrant and dynamic sector and maximise its contributions to inclusive growth, so that together we can design, develop and deliver better policies for better lives. Thank you.



See also:

OECD work on MNE Guidelines

OECD work on Corporate Governance


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