Japan Textile Federation Sustainability Seminar Report

Mr. Takasaki, Director's presentation: What is the sustainability strategy of SMEs? -from the perspective of the ILO-

News | 01 June 2021
On May 19, 2021, Mr. Shinichi Takasaki, Director, ILO Office for Japan participated in the "Sustainability Seminar", organized by the Japan Textile Federation.

The 2011 United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (“Guiding Principles”) have triggered a growing international interest in the responsibility of companies to respect human rights. While consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the SDGs, the textile and garment industry tends to be scrutinized by society as a sector with high human rights risks. 

In particular, in the Japanese textile industry, issues relating to the working environment for foreign technical intern trainees are often pointed out, and there is an increasing demand from society and business partners to address human rights issues.

In this seminar, Mr. Takasaki explained the risks facing the Japanese textile industry based on the international movement on "business and human rights," the measures required for SMEs and the significance of respecting human rights from the perspective of the ILO.

According to the United Nations "Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,”  which have been a major impetus for shaping the international movement regarding "business and human rights,” business enterprises should respect not only human rights in which companies are directly involved, but also human rights in the supply chain through third parties such as suppliers. Business enterprises are required to perform “human rights due diligence” throughout their supply chains to identify the risks of human rights abuses and take preventative and mitigation measures. Human rights due diligence includes formulating human rights policies, assessing the impact of business activities on human rights, corrective actions, and monitoring and disclosing performance.

As a movement of supply chain management in the world, Mr. Takasaki introduced "Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh," the platform of apparel brands that was launched after the collapse of the Lana Plaza Building in Bangladesh. Accord conducts audits and training programs to promote occupational health and safety initiatives of local suppliers. If the supplier refuses the required action, it will suspend transactions with the apparel brands participating in the platform.

Japanese companies are expanding Supply chain management initiatives as well. Especially in the Japanese textile industry, the working environment of foreign technical intern trainees is regarded as a social problem, and in some cases it led to the boycotts of the products. As a result, there are cases where major companies require suppliers to comply with the Code of Conduct, and CSR questionnaires and CSR inspections. In addition, one of major Japanese retail chains has set up grievance counters for employees throughout the supply chain. Japanese companies are gradually expanding the initiatives to respect human rights.

Regarding the code of conduct required by companies, Mr. Takasaki explained some themes related to foreign technical intern trainees, such as forced labor, working hours, wages and benefits, and discrimination, including cases of non-compliance and items to be checked.

As demand from society and business partners grows stronger, efforts for sustainability, including human rights, will increase merits for companies such as improving the corporate image, securing human resources, and maintaining and expanding transactions. It is important to engage in human rights initiatives as one of the management strategies for the sustainable growth of the company.

Finally, Mr. Takasaki stated the ILO Office for Japan will actively support Japanese companies' business and human rights initiatives through various industry groups and federations, in a neutral position as an international organization dealing with labour issues.

ILO Office for Japan expresses the greatest gratitude for the support provided by Ms Rie Tanaka, the ILO Consultant, for this presentation and many other substantial contribution to our office.