Arisa works to improve working conditions in supply chains in South Asia. There is not one single approach that leads to solving abuses in the often complex international supply chains. For this reason, Arisa combines several activities and mobilises multiple stakeholders.
Arisa investigates the supply chains of Dutch and European companies in South Asia. In many of these supply chains, serious abuses are found in working conditions: for example, the use of child labour, non-payment of minimum wages, discrimination against women and Dalit workers, and forced labour. Discrimination against women and minorities like Dalits is very often linked to many other violations that include underpayment and unhealthy and unsafe work.
Research is conducted in close collaboration with partner organisations in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The research findings are made publicly available and also actively brought to the attention of the companies, governments and politicians involved. In research reports, Arisa provides recommendations to address the abuses and malpractices found. If companies are willing, the research can serve as the starting point for further dialogue and collaboration with companies, leading to improvements in working conditions.
Companies have the responsibility to respect human rights. In their business operations, they must identify (risks of) violations, prevent them and provide redress if violations have occurred. This applies to their own company and direct business relations but also to the entire supply chain in which they operate. This responsibility is set out in international guidelines from both the UN and the OECD.
Arisa appeals to companies’ responsibility to respect human rights in various ways. For companies, Arisa is a:
- Resource for information
The research of Arisa into supply chains in South Asia gives companies insight into the working conditions in specific supply chains and sectors. It lays bare the severity of any abuses and malpractices and discusses the effectiveness of efforts to counter them. Before publication, Arisa allows companies mentioned in a research report to verify findings and respond (review).
Arisa addresses companies on the abuses and malpractices found. Companies can be cited positively in a report when they address abuses effectively. But when repeated violations have been found and improvement is lacking, Arisa publicises and disseminates the research findings more widely. Sometimes this is done through partnerships and campaigns in which Arisa is involved in.
- Discussion partner
Arisa is open to dialogue with companies that seriously want to address (the risks of) abuses and malpractices in their supply chains. A conversation with a company may involve providing feedback or pointing out specific tools. Conversely, Arisa can question a company about its supply chain. However, Arisa is not a business consultant; in many cases, Arisa will refer companies to sector- or multi-stakeholder initiatives.
- Participant in RBC initiatives
Arisa, in some cases, cooperates with companies on a long-term basis. This often happens in broader initiatives where trade unions, other civil society organisations, and the government participate alongside companies. For companies, such collaboration can help tackle abuses in their supply chains. Arisa pays attention to the following aspects when deciding to participate in an initiative: the initiative must have concrete objectives, companies must remain ultimately responsible, and they must be willing to make a substantial commitment and be transparent about the supply chain. Government participation in the initiative and a link to government policies can also make a big difference.
Governments also have an important role in resolving human rights violations in supply chains.
Many South Asian manufacturing countries are highly dependent on companies in the global North and sometimes have weak governance structures. The solution cannot be solely expected from producer countries. Arisa believes governments of countries in the global North must play a pivotal role in stopping human rights violations and abuses. Internationally operating companies are based in these countries and market their products, are listed on the stock exchange or acquire funding for their activities there. Governments, through legislation and monitoring, must hold these companies to international agreements to address human rights violations in their supply chains. In addition, governments can also impose requirements on companies through business support policies and with their own public procurement to ensure that they fulfil their social responsibility – also internationally. Finally, in international policy and diplomacy, governments can increase their efforts to ensure that South Asian countries do more to safeguard human and labour rights.
In addressing governments, Arisa often works together in networks and coalitions.
In all its activities, Arisa works intensively with partners, in coalitions and (international) networks.
Arisa collaborates with organisations in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan by conducting research together and supporting them in their work to improve working conditions on the ground. This includes organising training and setting up grievance mechanisms together. Arisa encourages dialogue on abuses and risks in supply chains between companies and civil society organisations and trade unions.
By joining forces, the necessary changes in company and public policies will be implemented and achieved faster.