Good working conditions are not a given for everyone all over the world. The corona crisis has once again laid bare that occupational health and safety are often deficient in global supply chains. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) is therefore working to promote fair working conditions throughout entire supply chains.
We consume fruit from South Africa, chocolate from the Côte d’Ivoire and coffee from Brazil. We wear clothes made in Asia. Our smartphones are put together from parts made all over the world by people earning a subsistence living from their labour.
However, decent working conditions are not a given everywhere in global supply chains. According to a study by the International Labour Organization (ILO), almost 25 million people worldwide are being exploited in forced labour, and almost one in ten children is a victim of child labour. These figures are appalling. They are unacceptable.
Europe is closely intertwined with the rest of the world in many ways. We Europeans must take responsibility for the social dimension of globalisation. I am therefore committed to improving working conditions and social standards for those working in the supply chains of European companies - no matter where in the world they earn their living.
Hubertus Heil, Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs
Making globalisation fair
For this reason, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs will use the presidency to work with its Europan Union (EU) partners to advance the issue. BMAS wants to help make fair globalisation happen in a way that sees European companies respect human rights in their supply chains - not only in Europe, but globally.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which is now threatening the very lives and livelihoods of countless workers throughout global supply chains, has shown how important this goal is. What's more, it's clear that health and safety at workplaces all over the world is often seriously inadequate given the high risk of infection and that informal workers - mostly women - are often dismissed without notice and with no social security. Hence, globally active companies must take on responsibility. Protecting human rights and the environment are a crucial part of that.
The EU must be a global role model
Because it is a community of shared values, the EU must act as a global role model in ensuring the protection of the rights of workers in supply chains outside Europe. Some EU countries are already taking action by legislating to make corporate due diligence mandatory. Sixteen Member States have implemented the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in national action plans. In the "National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAP)", Germany's Federal Government has also clearly formulated what it expects of companies when it comes to implementing human rights due diligence.
Now, within the framework of Germany’s presidency, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is advocating for a new EU action plan on "human rights and decent work in global supply chains". The aim is to achieve greater transparency, better protection of human rights and the environment, and improved stability in supply chain relations by strengthening corporate responsibility.