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22 Jun 2017

KnowTheChain case study: How are footwear companies and luxury clothing brands tackling forced labour risks in their leather supply chains?

This case study assesses how a sample of five footwear companies and five luxury clothing brands address forced labour risks across their leather supply chains.

The study follows KnowTheChain’s first apparel and footwear benchmark which found a lack of transparency and action to address forced labor abuses beyond first-tier suppliers, particularly in leather. [...]

Key findings of the case study include:

  • Publicly available information as well as information provided to us revealed very little on how—apart from auditing suppliers—companies address forced labor risks in countries where they produce hides, process leather, and manufacture leather goods. The German sportswear manufacturer Adidas marks the exception: Adidas trained tanneries in Taiwan and China on how to address forced labor risks and is developing multi-stakeholder partnerships to address risks at third-tier leather hide suppliers in Brazil and Paraguay. This contrasts with the complete lack of disclosure from Belle International, China’s largest shoe retailer. [...]
  • Most companies have made commitments to improve supply chain labor conditions. Commitments range from increasing supplier transparency, to undertaking supply chain human rights impact assessments, to developing strategies for social compliance at the tannery level.
  • Most companies in our sample participate in more than one multi-stakeholder or other initiative focused on improving labor standards in apparel supply chains. This is an important opportunity for both the initiatives as well as for member companies to work together to ensure robust forced labor standards and accountability mechanisms are developed and implemented, including for lower tiers of supply chains.