Hpakant Mines 2 SMALL
Focus areas / Supply chains
Chinese migrant workers in Shanxi China 05 Jun 2007




Global supply chains can boost development and create jobs. But often, they lack transparency and effective processes to address adverse human rights and environmental impacts.

Still opaque and unfair 

For supply chains to be fair and sustainable, they first and foremost need to be made transparent. But beyond the »Made in« labels on clothes, foods and electronics, consumers often know little about the environmental and human rights impacts of the items they purchase. Despite significant progress since the first major child labour scandals, dangerous working conditions, below minimum wage pay levels and reprisals towards trade union members are still commonplace in many countries where global corporations source their goods and components.

Crucial to identify and address risks

The root causes of these risks are often related to unsustainable and exploitative business models, weak law enforcement and impunity. International frameworks adopted by the United Nations and OECD member states require companies to respect human rights, identify risks of negative impacts in their supply chains and address them properly. This is known as human rights due diligence and is particularly important when operating in countries with poor human rights track records.

Swedwatch´s approach
Over the years we have put the spotlight on several pronounced supply chain issues, with a focus on cross-sectoral issues and trends seen in several countries, some examples being minerals destined for electronics, migrant workers in the global tourism industry and pollution linked to manufacturing of pharmaceuticals. Fundamental to our approach is to support local communities, trade unions and workers and their ability to push companies and authorities to address these issues.

Head of Unit Supply Chains
Mathieu (3)

Mathieu Vervynckt

Snapshots of our work on supply chains



The dark side of electronics

98filipinernaomslag.jpgSwedwatch has put the spotlight on a range of supply chain challenges in the ICT sector, from community impacts of copper mining to health impacts of workers handling hazardous chemicals in the production of laptops and smartphones.

The report Toxic Tech found that factory workers in the Philippines suffer from miscarriages and cancers and, despite the country's poor reputation on workers’ rights, little evidence of companies taking responsibility for their safety.

Based on the findings, Swedwatch called on companies and importers to ensure that workers are both informed of workplace risks and protected against exposure to hazardous chemicals.

A follow up report also recommended a gender approach to this work; women make up a large portion of the electronics production workforce and are more vulnerable to some of the identified chemicals than men. 

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Pharma pollution

CoverEnvironmental effluent from drug manufacturing has a devastating impact on local ecosystems and threatens the lives of vulnerable communities. Working with local CSOs and human rights defenders in Hyderabad, India, Swedwatch highlighted the failure of existing regulatory frameworks to curtail pollution from drug manufacturing, as well as violation of communities’ rights to clean water, air and soil. Not to mention a threat to global public health due to growing antibiotic resistance.

Following publication of the report The Health Paradox, Swedwatch actively advocated for changes in European Union legislation, which contributed to putting problems with supply chain transparency and the lack of due diligence firmly on the European Union agenda. It also contributed to the Swedish government allocating funding to address issues of pharma pollution.

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Textile workers raise their voice

Omslag miniatyrSwedwatch has monitored human rights impacts in the textile sector for more than a decade. For example, an advocacy project supporting textile workers in Bangladesh discovered that little had improved in terms of dialogue between workers, employers and the government since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory, despite a plethora of initiatives. Workers still lack negotiating power, few are unionised and collective bargaining agreements are next to non-existent.

Following a survey of Scandinavian garment and textile companies and interviews with local actors, Swedwatch published the report Power of the Voice and followed up with advocacy work to support trade unions. The project contributed to putting pressure on companies to publish supplier lists and on Swedish companies to organise dialogue with their suppliers and workers.

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Risky public procurement 

reporttrappedinthekitchenthumb.jpgAn investigation into Thailand’s poultry processing industry – supplying hospitals, day care centers and elderly homes with processed chicken meat – revealed a range of violations including the confiscation of passports and work permits, illegal fees and debt bondage. Previously, public authorities had not considered processed foods to be a high-risk product in terms of human rights.

The Swedwatch report Trapped in the Kitchen of the World highlighted the need for contracting authorities to identify high-risk goods and services and to implement and monitor compliance with social criteria. Following the investigation, contracting municipal and regional authorities carried out audits, visited Thai poultry factories and increased their monitoring and dialogue with suppliers.

More about public procurement

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