4 july 2016
This morning, 55 businesses, their representative organisations VGT, Modint and INretail, Solidaridad, UNICEF Netherlands, the India Committee of the Netherlands, the Stop Child Labour Coalition, Four Paws Netherlands, Dutch trade unions FNV and CNV and the National Government of the Netherlands signed the Agreement on a Sustainable Garment and Textile Sector. This is the first in a series of agreements on international responsible business conduct that aim to improve the sustainability of international production and supply chains. Together, the participating businesses represent more than a third of the revenue generated in the Dutch market (EUR 3.5 billion). A broad coalition has joined forces in this agreement. The aim is for at least 50% of the Dutch garment and textile sector to sign the agreement by 2018, and 80% by 2020. The Netherlands is the first country to embark on the transition to a sustainable garment and textile sector in this manner.
The parties have agreed to work together when producing garments and textiles in countries such as Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Turkey to prevent discrimination, child labour and forced labour, to promote the right to collective bargaining by independent trade unions, living wages, healthy and safe working conditions, to reduce the negative environmental impact of raw materials production, to prevent animal suffering, to use less water, energy and chemicals, and to produce less chemical waste and waste water. Dutch consumers will gradually have access to fairer, more sustainable garments and textiles. A growing number of shops will be able to meet consumer demands for fair and sustainable garments and textiles.
During the signing ceremony at the Nieuwspoort press centre in The Hague, it became clear that the sector had never before been so prepared to work together. This willingness was aptly illustrated by a colourful chain of T-shirts symbolically linked together by Lilianne Ploumen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development and one of the signatories of the agreement.
The participants will work together on achieving sustainability targets that would be difficult or impossible to achieve alone. The businesses involved will draw up an annual action plan identifying specific goals. Their plan will be based on an investigation of problems and risks among their own suppliers and in their own production and supply chain. An independent secretariat, that will be based at the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands (SER), will assess the quality and ambitions of these improvement plans. Unions and civil society organisations that are participating in the agreement will offer their knowledge and expertise and involve local partners in implementing the plans. The Dutch government wishes to make agreements with local or national authorities in sourcing countries, for example about strengthening their health and safety inspectorates. The Dutch government will also work with other countries that have comparable initiatives to scale up the agreement to the EU level.
The parties to the agreement will report on their relevant activities every year and on the progress they have made. Starting in the third year of their participation, the individual businesses will communicate their activities and progress to the public.
First agreement on International Responsible Business Conduct
In its advisory report on agreements on international responsible business conduct, the SER argues that economic sectors and businesses should take the initiative to conclude international corporate social responsibility agreements with government, trade unions and civil society organisations. The SER has facilitated parties to come to this agreement and will also facilitate its implementation. The Agreement on a Sustainable Garment and Textile Sector is the first in a series of agreements. It is a new instrument to work on the transition to sustainable, responsible international production and supply chains.