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Respect, Dignity and A Bigger Share of the Chocolate Bar: lessons from supply chains

June 12, 2019

Today, FLEX publishes two policy briefings on cocoa and garment supply chains respectively, finding workplace abuse, poverty and gender-based discrimination and more. 

The findings in these briefings come from a research project led by the University of Liverpool and funded by the British Academy with the Department for International Development. It sought to assess how transparency in supply chains for chocolate and clothes can help to protect human rights, including children’s rights, and the wellbeing of workers in low and middle-income countries.

The cocoa briefing, entitled ‘Recognising Lived Realities’, is available online here. It is based on fieldwork in Ghana and the Dominican Republic. It found that:

  • more nuance is needed in policymaking when understanding what it ‘child labour’ and what is ‘helping out’
  • farmers must be paid higher prices for their produce, and must be subsidised to make the changes required by ethical certification schemes

“It’s part of our culture. We learn to  work and we don’t understand why  a child can’t be involved in some  form of light labour. Or why a child  can’t be on a farm helping out.”​

The garment briefing, entitled ‘Respect, Dignity, That’s What We Want’ after a quotation from an interviewee, is available online here. It is based on fieldwork in Bangladesh and Myanmar, finding a range of workplace abuses:

  • labour laws are not being properly enforced
  • there is hostility to workers organising, e.g. within trade unions
  • workers are underpaid and overworked
  • workers are not being given sick leave even when recommended by doctors
  • pregnancy discrimination is commonplace
  • employers are circumventing minimum wage laws by increasing production targets

“A five-month pregnant worker, few days ago, fell ill. Her  leg was swelled up. Then we took her to a doctor. The doctor prescribe her to take rest. But our management didn’t let her  go home.” 

The briefings make clear recommendations to governments and brands for improvement of these issues.

Read the full findings in the cocoa briefing here and the garment briefing here