Decent work in global supply chains (own-initiative opinion)

EESC opinion: Decent work in global supply chains (own-initiative opinion)

Composition of the study group.


Administrator in charge: Ms Magdalena Ruda | Assistant in charge: Ms Judith Landesz


The EU acknowledges the increasing importance of including the EU and partner countries' companies in the GSCs. It is also emphasised that the current interdependence of the economies may further increase due to the recently negotiated and implemented EU trade and investment agreements, as well as negotiations at the WTO. Therefore, a better understanding of GSCs operation, and their impact on the economy and labour market should help to better harness their potential and to mitigate possible negative impacts. Against this background, the issue of decent work in GSCs, such as textile-clothing and footwear, electronics, minerals, and agro-industries, becomes a critical issue for all public and private actors involved in supply chain management at the national and international levels.


The EESC recommends in this context that the European Commission adopts a comprehensive and ambitious strategy in order to promote with all its internal (access to EU public procurement, labelling etc.), and external policies (trade, development, neighbourhood policy etc.) the decent work in GSCs.


The EESC also recommends cooperation between international organisations and other relevant stakeholders. This would include adopting a common language and common definitions of elements related to global value chains, GSCs and decent work, and comparison and assessment of the statistical data between the various stakeholders, such as the OECD, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), WTO, the European Commission, the World Bank and IFM. This should help avoid confusion and misinterpretation, and support elaboration of a coherent policy between diverse public bodies involved.


The EESC stresses the need to recognise and to promote the available best practices and initiatives related to decent work in GSCs. This includes e.g. the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, OECD sectorial due diligence guidance (in areas, such as textile and garment, minerals, agriculture and finances), trade aid, financial schemes to compensate damages, codes of conduct, labels, standards and self-assessment tools. The aim would be to put gradually in place a consistent and sustainable policy in the responsible management of GSCs.


Equally important would be the promotion of practical and suitable, risk-based approaches that will take into account the specific nature of the global value chain and the GSC. Based on assessment of the existing practices, promoted should be multi-stakeholders’ engagement, involving public and private actors, social partners, NGOs, experts etc., in order to develop the best portfolio of actions inspired by the OECD Guidelines to identify risks, to prevent and to mitigate them, to communicate and to report on the action plans. The measures involved in the action plans could include both, legislative and non-legislative measures, best practices, financial incentives, access to training, and capacity building for social dialogue and the trade unions.


There is also a need to push for a specific reflection on the kind of transparency tools that could be put in place in order to inform the final consumers about the social conditions of production.


The EESC recommends as well that the International Labour Conference (the ILO supreme decision making body) at its upcoming meeting in June considers the possibilities for the ILO to play an active role in securing decent work along the GSCs, including exploring the development and future adoption of any relevant and suitable instruments, that with the commitment of all the stakeholders will contribute to an effective improvement of working conditions.