Nest Eth­i­cal Com­pli­ance Stan­dards for Home and Small Work­shops: A much-needed step in the right di­rec­tion

Nest Eth­i­cal Com­pli­ance Stan­dards for Home and Small Work­shops

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There is an ur­gent need to bring home­work­ers into the folds of com­pli­ances and reg­u­lar mon­i­tor­ing for de­cent work­ing con­di­tions. In In­dia par­tic­u­larly, a lot of hand­work is done by women sit­ting at home with work com­ing mainly through agents or buy­ing of­fices.

These work­ers are not be­ing reg­u­lated, sim­i­lar to those work­ing within the fac­tory, of­ten lead­ing to dis­par­ity in both wages and work­ing con­di­tions. Tak­ing the lead in this di­rec­tion, Nest – a non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion founded in 2016 and work­ing to­wards build­ing a new hand­worker econ­omy to gen­er­ate global work­force in­clu­siv­ity, im­prove women’s well-be­ing be­yond fac­to­ries, and pre­serve cul­tural tra­di­tions of craft – is work­ing hand-in­hand with brands, phi­lan­thropists, and ar­ti­san busi­nesses to de­velop eth­i­cal com­pli­ance stan­dards for home and small work­shops.

The ini­tia­tive – Nest Ar­ti­san Ad­vance­ment Pro­ject – is in recog­ni­tion of the enor­mous in­dus­try-wide need for re­li­able third-party as­sess­ment of ar­ti­sans and home­worker sup­ply chains that are of­ten buried deep within the un­reg­u­lated in­for­mal sec­tor and com­plex sub­con­tract­ing sup­ply chains. It is in­tended that the ver­i­fi­ca­tions of these stan­dards re­flect the var­i­ous lay­ers within the com­plex sup­ply chain of ar­ti­san and sub­con­tracted labour. These stan­dards pro­vide the struc­ture for the Nest As­sess­ment Tools and in­form any re­me­di­a­tion pro­gram­ming, fol­low­ing an as­sess­ment.

The stan­dards ad­dress var­i­ous as­pects of the sup­ply chain business re­la­tion­ships among ar­ti­sans, sub-con­trac­tors and whole­sale and re­tail busi­nesses. Sig­nif­i­cantly, the stan­dards do not sup­plant any lo­cal laws, rules or statutes that may ap­ply. The ob­jec­tive is to use these stan­dards to ver­ify the eth­i­cal com­pli­ance of the de­cen­tral­ized as­pects of pro­duc­tion, en­sur­ing that poli­cies and pro­ce­dures dic­tated by the cen­tral business are un­der­stood and car­ried out by all sub­con­trac­tors and are present in all work­shops. If the business is em­ploy­ing mul­ti­ple sub­con­trac­tors, it is ex­pected that all sub­con­trac­tors are fol­low­ing the same guide­lines. In sit­u­a­tions where mul­ti­ple craft types are uti­lized (i.e. weav­ing and ce­ram­ics), it is con­ceiv­able that Nest will be ver­i­fy­ing only one spe­cific craft tech­nique. If so, the seal will dic­tate the spe­cific craft which has been ver­i­fied for the business. The use of a seal will be ap­proved only af­ter the com­ple­tion of a qual­i­fied as­sess­ment. The in­dus­try has come out in sup­port of the ini­tia­tive. Says Jan­havi

Dave, In­ter­na­tional Co­or­di­na­tor, HomeNet South Asia (HNSA), Ahmedabad, “In the cur­rent sce­nario when com­pa­nies are not rec­og­niz­ing home­work­ers in their sup­ply chains, the NEST Eth­i­cal Com­pli­ance Stan­dards for Home and Small Work­shops is a wel­come move. It does rec­og­nize that home­work­ers are part of the sup­ply chain and has a well-re­searched and un­der­stood section on wages.” How­ever,

Jan­havi points out that Nest has not men­tioned ‘home­work­ers’ in the en­tire doc­u­ment. ‘Ar­ti­sans’ and ‘work­ers work­ing in home work­shops’ are the phrases that have been used al­ter­na­tively for ‘home­work­ers’. “The re­al­ity is that home­work­ers may or may not be

ar­ti­sans (or skilled work­ers).

Many home­work­ers con­duct small jobs on gar­ments like cut­ting threads, stitch­ing but­tons, putting draw­strings, etc. Also, most home­work­ers work as in­di­vid­ual work­ers from their own homes and not from home work­shops,” ar­gues Jan­havi.

Ar­ti­san craft pro­duc­tion is cited as a US $ 34 bil­lion global in­dus­try and the ILO cites more than 300 mil­lion home-based work­ers in the world. All ma­jor is­sues from work­ing time to child labour to fair com­pen­sa­tion to health and safety con­cerns form an in­te­gral part of the stan­dards and have been de­vel­oped within the stan­dards. Us­ing its in­ter­nal assess­ments as the start­ing point, Nest car­ried out com­pre­hen­sive re­views of ex­ist­ing fac­tory au­dit­ing stan­dards in­clud­ing SA 8000,

FLA and Fair Trade USA, to build the foun­da­tions for the Nest Stan­dards. Nest also con­sulted with com­pli­ance ex­perts as well as nu­mer­ous ar­ti­san business lead­ers, to fur­ther weigh in on the Stan­dards.

HomeNet South Asia (HNSA), as a net­work of home-based work­ers across the South Asian re­gion, re­ally ap­pre­ci­ates the in­clu­sion of ‘le­gal min­i­mum wages in­clud­ing piece rate wages’, ‘time mo­tion stud­ies’ to de­ter­mine piece rates again to meet at least the min­i­mum wages, ‘striv­ing for pay­ment of liv­ing wages’ (even though it is only as­pi­ra­tional), ‘sub-con­trac­tors to up­hold com­pany poli­cies’, ‘in­spec­tion of sub-con­trac­tors’, etc. While ap­pre­ci­at­ing the ini­tia­tive as a step in the right di­rec­tion, it hopes that NEST Eth­i­cal Com­pli­ance Stan­dards would fur­ther work to­wards a sep­a­rate com­pli­ance stan­dard for home­work­ers in sup­ply chain, as a lot of work is be­ing done by home­work­ers from their homes and not from work­shops. The place of work is the dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing fac­tor for the com­pli­ance stan­dards. Other ar­eas that HNSA is keen to see within the stan­dards are:

Have a section on social se­cu­rity, which not only meets the lo­cal le­gal re­quire­ment, but clearly men­tions ex­ten­sion of com­pa­nypro­vided social se­cu­rity for all work­ers, in­clud­ing home­work­ers. Rec­og­nize that many home­work­ers in the sup­ply chains are women and have spe­cial section on vi­o­lence against women at the place of work, child­care and ma­ter­nity ben­e­fits.

A section on skills’ upgra­da­tion for home­work­ers, through CSR ac­tiv­i­ties, which fur­ther boosts pro­duc­tion.

Recog­ni­tion and en­cour­age­ment of or­ga­niz­ing as a tool for reach­ing out to home­work­ers in the sup­ply chains and work­ing to­wards col­lab­o­ra­tive so­lu­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to an of­fi­cial re­lease,

Nest views these stan­dards as the start­ing point as these sup­ply chains have such vari­abil­ity and nu­ance. Nest knows that each level of the sup­ply chain – whether it’s the cen­tral business, sub­con­trac­tor, small work­shop or home­worker – have their own ex­pec­ta­tions placed upon them in terms of com­pli­ance. It takes par­tic­i­pa­tion from all lev­els to lead to a suc­cess­ful sys­tem. Nest also an­tic­i­pates fu­ture ad­di­tions to this set of stan­dards, both through stan­dards review process as well as through the ad­di­tion of more ro­bust en­vi­ron­men­tal re­quire­ments.

The pur­pose of the Nest Stan­dards is to make home and small work­shop­based labour for the fash­ion and home in­dus­tries (with po­ten­tial ap­pli­ca­tion for broader in­dus­try types) vis­i­ble and safe, in ac­cor­dance to stan­dards agreed upon across the en­tire re­tail in­dus­try.

Nest is cur­rently reach­ing a pop­u­la­tion of more than

67,000 in­di­vid­ual ar­ti­sans spread out across more than 50 coun­tries and rep­re­sent­ing more than 350 ar­ti­san busi­nesses prac­tis­ing very di­verse craft types. More than 42 ar­ti­san busi­nesses across 5 coun­tries (In­dia, Kenya, Mex­ico, Philip­pines, and Peru) have par­tic­i­pated in the pi­lot­ing of

Nest Com­pli­ance for Homes and

Small Work­shops, con­tribut­ing to im­proved trans­parency and in­creased well­be­ing of an es­ti­mated 11,000 hand work­ers.

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