The California Transparency in Supply Chains Act

The actress Julia Ormond founded the advocacy NGO ASSET, an alliance to stop slavery and end trafficing. Her campaigning aims at promoting the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2010 (Senate Bill 657), which Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law on September, 30th. Bill 657 requires larger retailers and manufacturers with over $100 million in worldwide gross receipts “to eradicate slavery from their supply chains” – by posting on their websites what policies they have in place to ensure that their supply chains are free of slavery and human trafficking. “This will increase transparency, allow consumers to get more information and make more choices and motivate businesses to ensure humane practices.”

Ormond calls upon consumers to “support businesses that are creating best practices, and can encourage them to bring the innovative business skill-set and their extensive supply chain knowledge into the mix”. “We cannot get accurate and efficient access to those victims without the consent and collaboration of the companies that influence those very supply chains.” She also suggests that “we need to set aside the naming and shaming, pointing and blaming and work together, with an open mind to understanding better the very real challenges on every side: government, corporate and personal”.

Having said this, her NGO set up an interesting campaign called chain store reaction, which looks pretty much like “naming and shaming”. It aims at ending “forced labour” – i.e. “Anyone who is forced to work without pay (beyond minimal subsistence), under the threat of violence, being economically exploited and unable to walk away” – by connecting consumers with brands. The website lists more than 700 brands – regarding apparel it shows that only 22 out of 245 brands responded to the campaign in a “good” way.

And Tony Webb of Ethical corporation argues that “Sooner or later, Uzbek cotton, if defined as slave labour based, may fall under this law.” – and he concludes: “At least 3000 companies are now going to have to raise their game on supply chain risks and tracking, or risk damaging lawsuits. I wonder how many of them are currently aware of that.”

See also the interview of Julie Ragatz, Assistant Professor of Ethics at The American College, with Chris Miller, an advisor to ASSET.

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