Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Conversation on AFL-CIO CSR report continues in wake of Rana Plaza Disaster in Bangladesh

Thanks to the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, the conversation about how to fix CSR and multi-stakeholder initiatives has begun.  Business and Human Rights solicited responses from the companies and multi-stakeholder initiatives to the AFL-CIO's CSR and MSI critique.  Social Accountability International offered a thoughtful response to the AFL-CIO's as well as some corrections.  SAI pointed out that the CSR industry is $80 million US, not $80 billion US - an important correction.  SAI's argument that the AFL-CIO got SAI's certification business model wrong did not strike me as a convincing counterpoint to the AFL-CIO's critique, however.  Regardless of how the operational and contractual structure is organized, entities affiliated with SAI gave top level certifications to factories that later turned out to be deadly to their workers.  All of the responses - and a record of  non-responses - are included on the Centre's website.  The website is updated as discussants submit additional materials. On May 20, the AFL-CIO submitted a rejoinder to SAI's response to its report, with subsequent responses for SAI and others.

On May 7, The Guardian published an informative blog piece on the opportunities and challenges faced by CSR personnel within multi-national corporations which makes an insightful contribution to the conversation.  The writer, Christine Bader, points out that pressures in the purchasing department and lack of communication due the tendency toward division into silos in large organizations can nullify the work being done by serious CSR practitioners within corporations.

This week, factory workers at a Nike supplier in Cambodia went on strike for better wages because they cannot subsist on their minimum wage earnings.  While the Better Factories Cambodia program allows the garment industry in Cambodia to market itself as a high labor standards provider, in fact it seems that the price point guides and not high labor standards.

Meanwhile, despite their differences on the efficacy of SAI's certification process, both SAI and the AFL-CIO and other international trade unions support the Accord on Fire Safety and Building Safety in Bangladesh.