Dutch MPs updated on multi-stakeholder IRBC Agreements

On Friday 19 October, Dutch MPs visited the head office of retail chain HEMA to learn more about multi-stakeholder agreements focusing on international responsible business conduct (IRBC). Also present during the working visit were the representatives of companies that participate in an IRBC agreement, Kings of Indigo and WE Fashion.

© Wilmar Dik

After a brief introduction by the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands updating the MPs on the current status of all the agreements, there was an open discussion between the MPs and representatives of the agreement partners, i.e. companies, trade unions, NGOs, industry associations and government.

Companies explain sustainability in the supply chain

Two of the companies attending, WE Fashion and Kings of Indigo, explained how they are working to improve the sustainability of their supply chains.

WE Fashion deliberately outsources its work to factories that have their sustainability affairs in order, but it also makes a point of working with factories that are willing to discuss how to improve conditions. In addition, WE Fashion investigates its supply chain; for example, it not only talks to the supplier of the end product but also traces the origins of buttons and zippers. To truly understand their supply chain, retailers need to know precisely which labourers have worked on what component of each order.

Kings of Indigo is a newer company and takes precisely the opposite approach: it will only place an order if the factory can guarantee the sustainable production of all its materials.

Growing number of agreements

MPs have taken an interest in the multi-stakeholder approach and recognise that it will take time to restructure the supply chain. There are IRBC agreements not only in the garments and textile industry but also in the banking, sustainable forestry, vegetable protein, food products and gold sectors. Stakeholders in other sectors are also working to conclude agreements, for example in metallurgy, pensions, agriculture and floriculture. Each of the agreements involves an RBC risk management procedure known as ‘due diligence’. The parties also cooperate on joint projects, for example focusing on living wages.

Concerns about the Bangladesh Accord

MP Kirsten van der Hul (Labour/PvdA) raised questions about the worrisome situation surrounding the Bangladesh Accord. She had previously raised similar questions in Parliament. The Supreme Court of Bangladesh recently ruled that Accord staff must cease their activities by 30 November. All the partners involved in the Dutch Agreement on Sustainable Garments and Textile consider this a worrisome development. Both businesses and government as well as the Agreement organisation are making their concerns known in Bangladesh.