More than likely, the garments you are wearing were manufactured by workers in the Asia-Pacific or Latin American regions — especially if you are wearing “fast fashion.” You might reasonably assume that the worker who sewed your shirt is paid fairly, can take a bathroom break when needed, and is not a child; in other words, a European or American style of labor relations. Yet labor laws vary from one country to the next. This course is designed to give you an overview of global labor relations regulations. You will analyze the model used in your own country and compare it with a country in which your firm does business. You will examine how trade agreements impact workers and explore the influence of regionalized initiatives such as the European Union and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Many organizations have established a code of conduct — a kind of self-regulation that clarifies how workers will be treated — and these codes often extend to the rest of the supply chain. But how can you ensure that your purchasing team and your suppliers are in compliance? In this course, you will examine methods for verifying that regulations are followed accurately and consistently. You will explore the advantages and disadvantages of auditing and how to look for and address violations. Whether you reward suppliers for being in compliance or punish them if they are out of compliance — or both — you will recognize the difficulties of assessing the supply chain and determine how to make appropriate decisions that support your organization's code of conduct.
A firm may state goals and values for global labor practices but might not actually meet them in practice; this gap between formal policies and actual practices is known as organizational decoupling. In this course, you will examine ways to overcome decoupling. You will discover which data can provide accurate measures of policies and practices then identify data sources for your own firm. You will understand the responsibilities of and barriers to transparency in multi stakeholder institutions. Finally, you will analyze what is within your locus of control to improve transparency as well as how your organization itself might be contributing to labor violations.

Research from Cornell’s New Conversations Project shows that despite 25 years of sustainability efforts through codes of conduct, factory auditing, and remediation, there has been little improvement overall in labor conditions throughout global supply chains, Yet the research also demonstrates that sustainable improvement occurs under certain conditions, especially when companies integrate their sustainability practices with their sourcing practices. While many organizations have already begun to do this, the COVID-19 crisis has hastened the process, forcing companies to reexamine their supply chains and reconfigure relationships among buyers, suppliers, and workers.

These live sessions are broadly focused on answering the following questions: How can sustainable improvements in working conditions be made in today’s business world with its rapid reorganization of supply chains? What factors limit an organization’s abilities to integrate sourcing and sustainability strategies? How will global companies in apparel and other sectors navigate the necessary changes in relationships with suppliers and workers? In this live interactive online series, you’ll explore how rigorous analysis of supply chain data and evidence-based decision making can be scaled up to produce better labor practices, informed sourcing decisions, and responsible business strategy.

Session 1: 25 Years of Codes of Conduct: Data on Failures and Successes

What have we learned from 25 years of codes of conduct and auditing? What does new Cornell research show and what are the key problems that limit effectiveness? What have been the causes of failure? Why is private regulation generally ineffective? How do we reorganize programs to address the root causes? In this session, you will explore what comprehensive new research on the effectiveness of corporate codes of conduct and monitoring systems means for global brands. The session will also delve into the dynamics — practice multiplicity, behavioral invisibility, and causal complexity — that prevent labor programs from seeing what works.

Session 2: Improving Private Regulation for the Future

In this session, we will focus on what companies can do to improve their private regulation programs as well as how the entire ecosystem needs to alter their practices to generate systemic improvement. We will address questions such as: What is the best way to align sourcing and compliance strategies inside companies? How should labor and sourcing be linked in practice? How can you measure and track improvements in labor and sourcing practices? More broadly, what works to improve outcomes for workers in global supply chains? How can the evidence support systemic changes in labor and human rights programs? And how do these efforts align with new hard-law developments in Europe such as the mandatory due diligence legislation?

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