Transparency of Codes of Conduct in the Apparel Industry
Most survey respondents who have child labor policies indicated that they
have distributed copies of their policies to all suppliers, including
contractors and subcontractors. A few said they also communicate the policy to
a wider audience. On the other hand, many respondents said they were not
certain whether workers know about their codes of conduct.
Field visits conducted in six countries revealed that:
- Managers at two-thirds of the export-oriented plants visited indicated they
were aware of codes of conduct prohibiting child labor, particularly codes
issued by U.S. customers.
- Formal training about codes of conduct was not common. Approximately 30
percent of the facilities visited where managers knew about codes reported that
they received formal training from the U.S. corporation issuing the code.
However, more than half of these facilities produced for just two corporations.
- Meetings with workers and their representatives suggested that relatively
few workers making garments for U.S. companies are aware of the existence of
codes of conduct and even fewer understand their implications.
- This confirms information received from U.S. companies through responses to
the survey and follow-up telephone interviews that they were not aware how - or
if - their policy is communicated to workers making their products.
- The lack of awareness among workers about codes of conduct may be in part
attributable to the relatively low level of effort by producers to inform their
workers about the codes. Only 22 of the plants visited informed their workers
about codes of conduct; 13 of the companies indicated that they informed their
workers about codes of conduct orally, while only nine stated that they did so
both orally and in writing.
- In many cases where plant managers told Department of Labor officials that
they had informed workers orally about company policies, workers denied having
ever been so informed.
- Posting of the codes of conduct at the workplace for the benefit of the
workers -preferably in their own language - was not the rule in the garment
industries of most of the countries visited. In all, 21 of the 70 plants
visited by the Department of Labor officials had posted a code of conduct of a
U.S. customer; 7 of such plants (out of 8 visited in that country) were in El
Salvador. The number of plants visited in each of the other countries where
codes of conduct were posted was: Dominican Republic, 2; Honduras, 1; Guatemala,
2; India, 2; and the Philippines, 7.
- Some managers stated that they do not post codes because all they do is
repeat domestic law. However, not all codes define child labor by existing
- Others have also used as an excuse the illiteracy of workers, even though
managers contradict this by stating that they are seeking to employ
better-educated workers. Many workers had no trouble reading codes of conduct
shown to them by Department of Labor officials.
- While it is most critical that overseas contractors, subcontractors and
their workers be familiar with corporate codes of conduct, knowledge about their
existence and implications by others - host governments, NGOs, business
organizations - also can be helpful in enhancing their effectiveness. The
record was mixed with respect to the extent to which these entities were
familiar with codes of conduct and their implications.