By Brian Lowry
Last month, I was fortunate to participate in a community event that explored human rights issues in virtually every step of cotton’s journey from seed to clothing. The event, “Human Rights: From Farm to Fashion,” was co-sponsored by Monsanto and six area universities and open to the public. More than 200 individuals, many of them college students, attended.
Puvan Selvanathan, a member of the United Nations Working Group on Business and Human Rights and the U.N. Human Rights Council, served as keynote speaker and master of ceremonies. The day featured presentations and discussions from more than a dozen prominent members of industry, academia and nongovernmental advocacy organizations. The diversity of the speakers reflects the complexity and nuances of human rights challenges throughout the apparel supply chain and offered attendees a window into a world that the public rarely sees. The agenda covered a range of topics addressing working conditions, including factory inspections, wages, human trafficking and working hours, and included remedies being employed, from audits to law enforcement to technological tracking solutions employed by fashion designers and informed consumers.
As a company, we’re dedicated to protecting the rights of both our permanent employees and those of the temporary workers who are also essential to our success – and we have the processes in place to ensure this. We continually work to inspect our sites and upgrade worker housing and other camp and field facilities where provided. One example of this effort is our commitment to the WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) initiative of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).
I am hopeful that many echo my opinion that human rights must be part of the collective mainstream dialogue. We are all accountable for the full realization of human rights and it starts with understanding what is meant by human rights and the roles we play. Whether we are government officials, industry leaders, civil society advocates or simply ordinary citizens, only through engaging in a broader dialogue about human rights can we advance and improve our world.
It’s with this sentiment that I encourage you to view the video below, which captures highlights from the “Human Rights: From Farm to Fashion” event. Through these types of forums, I believe that everyone can benefit.