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Methodology

Our COVID-19 Action Tracker captures information on responses to the pandemic and the impact on workers around the world through a number of different evidence-based indicators and survey responses. This live tracker is updated on an ongoing basis as we receive further information across two initial focus areas.

How it works

Selected data points from our research, surveys and relevant trackers are displayed visually on each company page, and can be viewed on the ‘compare company responses tool’ on our tracker homepage.

Symbols and colours

  • Green signals a ‘positive’ action
  • Red signals a ‘negative’ action
  • Blue signals a ‘neutral’ action that we have decided to assess neither as ‘positive’ or ‘negative’
  • An explanation point indicates that there is a ‘condition’ to a response that is not straightforward. You can click ‘read more’ for further contextual information.

Please note, the information on this tracker is primarily based on company commitments and adherence to public statements have not been verified.

What it tracks

Apparel

Many fashion brands and retailers responded to the COVID-19 crisis by cancelling orders already produced and those in production, delaying payments and requesting discounts. This has forced suppliers in garment producing countries to dismiss millions of garment workers, often without legally-mandated pay and severance, pushing an already precarious group of workers to greater economic vulnerability. Trade unions, civil society organisations and manufacturing associations in garment producing countries have appealed to buyers to not cancel orders in response to the pandemic, fulfil existing contractual obligations and ensure garment workers are adequately protected from infection.

Our survey

We asked 35 major apparel brands and retailers - including all brands participating in the ACT (Action, Collaboration, Transformation) initiative on living wages[1] - to answer a set of questions regarding payment terms before, and in response to, the COVID-19 pandemic, to foster greater transparency of the apparel industry. The full set of questions we asked can be accessed here. Nine brands did not respond to our questions: Arcadia Group, Boohoo, Cotton On Group, Debenhams, Esprit, Gap, New Look, PVH and Tapestry. The full set of survey responses and non-responses can be found here.

Responses to this survey informed our online COVID-19 tracker of apparel companies. We also referred to other publicly available sources of information – including this live tracker maintained by the Worker Rights Consortium and the Center for Global Workers’ Rights, which has been used for supplier-verified data on order payments. This was used in instances where there were inconsistencies, gaps or non-responses to our questions. We have also drawn on other public statements by the company and information reported by credible news sources.

You can explore company responses and non-responses below.

Civic Freedoms and Human Rights Defenders

Public health measures and expanded government powers amid global pandemic pose added threats to civic freedoms and the rights of human rights defenders (HRDs), including those focusing on business-related human rights impacts. Some of these measures are proportionate, necessary and legitimate during this difficult time. However, some governments, and other actors, are using this crisis to attack defenders in new ways, stifle freedoms, quash protests, and push through restrictive measures that limit freedom of expression and civic space. Our in-depth coverage is available here.

Our indicators

Several online trackers have been created to highlight the impacts of COVID-19 response on civic freedoms and HRDs. Our tracker compiles indicators from key trackers most relevant to the situation of human rights defenders and organisations working for corporate accountability. These are also issues that should concern businesses and investors that see limits on civic freedoms as a risk that they should address and manage: an increasing number of businesses and investors are trying to integrate these considerations in their risk assessments, our tracker aims to provide a starting point to do so. For these reasons, we decided to highlight the following indicators:

  • COVID-19 emergency laws with no clear end date: As stated by The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, emergency powers should be used within the parameters provided by international human rights law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This acknowledges that States may need additional powers to address exceptional situations. Such powers should be time-bound and only exercised on a temporary basis with the aim to restore a state of normalcy as soon as possible. Our tracker, signals a 'positive' action when an emergency law is time-bound and when the UN has been notified of derogation of the ICCPR, and as a 'positive' action with 'a condition', when there is a time limit, but the UN was not notified. This 'positive' action signal should not be interpreted as indicating that government action fully aligns with the Siracusa principles. This data has been sourced from the ICCPR Emergency laws tracking tool and will be updated on an ongoing basis.
  • CIVICUS Monitor score: The CIVICUS Monitor provides close to real-time data on the state of civil society and civic freedoms in 196 countries. Our tracker uses this data to inform a country’s civic space rating as closed, repressed, obstructed, narrowed or open. This data also feeds into individual country pages and updates, which provide verified and up-to-date information on the state of freedom of association, peaceful assembly and expression. The CIVICUS score in our tracker refers to the civic space rating that the country currently has in the CIVICUS Monitor and will be updated on an ongoing basis.
  • COVID-19 digital tracking: The COVID-19 Digital Rights Tracker states that as governments implement measures to slow the spread of the virus, many have turned to digital tracking initiatives to help monitor their populations. Measures include the use of aggregated mobile location data to track citizens during lockdown, apps designed to help identify the location of those with the virus, and the deployment of advanced mobile monitoring technologies. Our tracker marks the deployment of these systems as a 'neutral' action, but organisations and investors, and in particular tech companies, should be aware that these tools may be used disproportionately against HRDs, and others that governments see as dissidents, if data is not collected with consent and if these systems stay in place beyond the time required to combat the pandemic. This data has been sourced from the COVID-19 Digital Rights Tracker and will be updated on an ongoing basis.
  • HRD attacks: Since 2015, Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has been compiling reports about physical, judicial attacks and threats against HRDs, focusing on business-related human rights impacts. This indicator shows the cumulative number of cases in our database per country and gives a sense of how at risk these defenders are in respective countries in general - it also points to increased risk for them during COVID-19. The number of cases is automatically updated as new cases are added to our database.

Keeping it up to date

This is a live tracker we update on an ongoing basis. If you have additional information on these issues please contact us at [email protected] with the subject line ‘COVID-19 Action Tracker’.

[1] As of 1 May 2020. It was announced that Big W – who is not included in this research – joined ACT on 13 May 2020.