Socially Responsible Public Procurement -Textiles, Workwear and Footwear

Here you find information about generalised risks of human rights breaches in the global supply chains of workwear, footwear and textiles.

Risks of human rights breaches

The textile industry could be categorised as “hyper-competitive” which in practice has led to companies and sub-contractors engaged in fast and cheap production. Workers in high-risk countries such as China, Indonesia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and in particular those working in the footwear and leather industries, are thus being subjected to a very high risk of being forced to work long hours, often handling hazardous chemicals.

Child labour is not uncommon, with India being one of the countries with the highest rates of child labour. Many workers report income-levels below a so-called “living wage”. Although some of the top export and manufacturing countries have ratified the ILO core conventions on labour rights , restrictions on freedom of association is commonplace and workers who voice their will to form or join a union are often fired or threatened in some way. Lack of safety at the workplace is also a serious problem, causing many deaths and injuries (especially in Bangladesh) due to, for example, building-collapses and fires.

Here you can read the whole report on human rights abuses in global supply chains of workwear, footwear and textiles:

Risk assessment on human rights issues in the production of workwear, footwear, textiles(pdf.)
pdf 968.96 KB

Specific risk assessments 

The table below gives a generalised estimate of the level of risk of human rights abuse in the main tiers of the workwear, footwear and textiles supply chain (raw material extraction; component production and final assembling).  Some products purchased by public procurers in Norway have been selected to exemplify the risk levels. 

Product Assembly Component Raw material
Workwear, footwear and textiles High risk High risk High risk
Workwear outdoor High risk High risk Very high risk
Workwear indoor, bedlinen and towels High risk High risk High risk
Protective footwear Medium-high risk Medium-high risk High risk
Protective gloves High risk High risk Very high risk
Disposable dust masks Medium-high risk Medium-high risk High risk

Guidance for use of SRPP instruments when purchasing workwear, footwear and textiles

The level of risk of human rights abuse for the products exemplified reveals that the level of generalised risk of human rights abuse in the supply chains is high in all the tiers for workwear, footwear and textiles. The risk level suggests use of the socially responsible public procurement (SRPP) instruments to promote human rights during the production process in the supply chain of workwear, footwear and textiles. It is relevant both when purchasing and/or using leasing systems.

Disclaimer: Please notice that the level of risk for human rights abuses could vary for other types of products then the examples above. Furthermore, the risk assessments are based on supply chains for high risk products imported to Norway and the supply chain can look different for products imported to other countries/continents – such as North America.

1) Planning the purchase of a high risk product 

When using the SRPP instruments, consider the core principles of public procurement: transparency, equal treatment, open competition, and sound procedural management. 

Having an open dialog – communicating expectations on human rights due diligence - with the supplier market is essential to prepare suppliers on the SRPP requirements.

2) Writing the tender documents for the purchase of high risk products

The length of the contract and the financial value of the transaction should guide decision making towards investing main focus in the contracts with highest financial total value and the longest contract periods.

When having decided which tender documents that should be complemented with SRPP instruments, Norwegian public procurers are adviced to use the DFØ High risk list management database tool (currently only available in Norwegian).

SRPP special contract clauses  should be added to the tender documents.

It could also be considered to use selection criteria (currently only available in Norwegian) if the level of the market maturity is high (i.e several suppliers have human rights due diligence systems in place at the time of the writing of the tender documents).

3) Contract follow-up 

Using SRPP special contract clauses implies that the public entity shall follow up the contract. During contract follow-up of certain specific products - such as outdoor workwear (see graph) - could be selected for more detailed control. Notice that the risk level in the different tiers of the supply chain differs and specific care could therefore be taken at the tiers with the highest risk.

SRPP self-assessment guidance could be used as reference for contract follow-up.

Oppdatert: 3. juni 2022

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