If the world’s seven leading economies, the G7, can put fair production in place, supply chains around the world could ultimately start to see improvements.
At a two-day meeting in Berlin this week G7 ministers of employment, labor, social affairs and international cooperation and development recommitted to their joint efforts to boost labor rights, working conditions and environmental protection in global supply chains.
“Our products cannot today be produced on the basis of nineteenth century standards – irrespective of whether we are talking about clothes, shoes, glass or porcelain,” Federal Development Minister Gerd Müller said in a statement following the meeting in Berlin. “We must ensure proper standards, and child labour must be abolished. To achieve this we need the companies, the two sides of industry, governments and consumers to work together.”
According to G7 Germany 2.3 million people die each year due to work related accidents and illnesses, the economic costs of which are equal to 4 percent of GDP or more than $1.2 billion a year.
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States make up the G7 countries, and the representative ministers agreed to create a multi-donor Vision Zero Fund for global accident protection.
“The Vision Zero Fund will help prevent and reduce the unacceptable number of workplace-related deaths, injuries and diseases. Gaining access to global supply chains can be an important part of strategies for poverty reduction. The Fund will help to make this route safer,” International Labor Organization Director-General Guy Ryder, who was also in attendance at the meeting said in a statement.
Funds from Vision Zero will go toward advising private companies and governments on how to put national accident insurance schemes in place, train fire prevention inspectors and run occupational safety training.
Together, the G7 have pledged just over $8 million for the fund.
For the textile sector in particular, Minister Müller advocated for introducing a meta label, or quality seal, for the industry that would better structure existing labels so they provide more information for the consumer.
“There are lots of different seals. We need something to designate fair production like the ‘Bio’ seal in the food trade,” Müller said.
In turning to Bangladesh, the Minister said that nearly 1,500 of the country’s textile producing companies have already undergone certification procedures and he would like to see all other companies do the same over the next few years.
During the meeting the G7 also expressed support for implementing sustainable development goals and providing more information to consumers and to promote more responsible value chains.
“The ILO will work closely with governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations, as well as with other stakeholders, to ensure that the G7 agreement translates into concrete improvements in the lives of the estimated 450 million people who work in global supply chains related jobs,” the organization said in a statement.