Letter to companies in shoe sector
To the Board,
On the International Day Against Child Labour, ‘Stop Child Labour – School, the best place to work’ launches its campaign ‘We want child friendly shoes’ to draw attention to child labour in the production of leather shoes worldwide and the need for action against this. Initially, the campaign will focus on the Netherlands but in due course we will roll it out in other European countries in association with our partners. Given the scope of the campaign, in addition to directly approaching companies Stop Child Labour will also approach consumers who do not want to buy shoes made with child labour. In the coming months you may expect to receive letters from consumers calling for ‘child friendly’ shoes.
Recent studies by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) commissioned by the Stop Child Labour campaign reveal that child labour does occur in the production chain of companies that sell shoes in the Netherlands. Additional research by Stop Child Labour into CSR and child labour policies of companies confirmed that companies provide little to no openness about child labour and take little to no action to eliminate child labour from the production chain. See the the summary of the SOMO report (pdf) and the findings of the additional research by Stop Child Labour(pdf).
SOMO has identified the incidence of child labour and poor working conditions in the production of leather shoes in many countries. Field research in India showed that children between 12 and 18 are involved in the production of shoes. They tan and process leather, glue shoe soles or sew parts together. This work is harmful to their health and often gets in the way of their right to education. It is therefore prohibited by International Labour Organisation conventions.
Much work is outsourced to SMEs and home-based workshops in the tanning and shoe production processes. Few or no inspections are carried out here, as companies mostly audit only their direct suppliers. Child labour has been found in workshops that produce for companies in Agra in the north of India and Vaniyambadi and Ambur in the south of India. SOMO’s study shows that some of these shoe companies supply shoes to companies that operate in the Netherlands, including eight companies that Stop Child Labour approached in the context of the study. We have chosen not to publicise the names of these companies as this puts the focus on these companies, whereas we believe that child labour in the production chain is a problem that affects the entire sector and that no company can exclude this entirely.
We would like to point out that the Stop Child Labour campaign is against severing ties with suppliers (or their sub-suppliers) that are found to use child labour. Experience shows that this drastic measure can have serious consequences for the employees of these suppliers and that the child workers often end up in even worse conditions. We therefore advocate active involvement by companies in order to improve the situation and make the chain sustainable, in cooperation with other companies in the sector and relevant local actors.
The new manual entitled ‘Action Plan for Companies to Combat Child Labour’ may well be of assistance to you. Stop Child Labour sets out a number of recommendations in this guide to eliminate child labour from the production process. These recommendations are based on the UN Guidelines for Human Rights and Business and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, which are endorsed and recommended by the Dutch government.
Stop Child Labour calls on companies in the shoe industry to ensure an effective approach against child labour in the entire chain and to provide openness about this. We would be grateful if you could respond to this letter before 1 September, with further details on your approach to child labour. We look forward to your response with great interest. Naturally we would be pleased to discuss this topic with you further if desired.
Sofie Ovaa, campaign coordinator
on behalf of the campaign ‘Stop Child Labour – School, the best place to work’
Participants of this campaign in the Netherlands:
Algemene Onderwijsbond (AOb, Dutch General Education Union)
ICCO & Kerk in Actie
Landelijke India Werkgroep (LIW, National India Working Group)
Stichting Kinderpostzegels Nederland (charity foundation for children)
>> Download the findings of the SOMO report and additional SCL research (pdf)
>> Download the summary of the SOMO report (pdf)
>> Download the SOMO report (pdf) (Dutch only)