Düsseldorf, December 22 2016 – The India Committee of the Netherlands (ICN) has published a new report today on forced labour and the Sumangali scheme in Southern India. Referring to several fashion retailers, the report states that "approximately 30% of the south Indian spinning mills' yarn is used in the export factories in Tamil Nadu, who produce for brands like C&A, H&M, Marks and Spencer, Primark, Walmart, Zara and a lot of other brands".
C&A wishes to emphasize that it is committed to contributing to the improvement of workers’ rights in Southern India. In this regard, forced labour in general and the Sumungali scheme in particular is unacceptable and is a reason for termination of a business relationship with a supplier should we find that the scheme is exists in one of our suppliers’ operations.
At the same time, C&A also realizes that the elimination of the Sumangali system and improvements towards better living conditions in the Tamil Nadu textile industry can only be achieved through common action by all industry players, retailers, suppliers, local manufacturers, NGOs, associations and authorities. Without the support of local partners it will not be possible to abolish the system. Therefore, we have joined different multi-stakeholder initiatives to fight the inter-sectoral problem of the Sumangali scheme and to improve the labor conditions in the Tamil Nadu textile industry. For example, since 2012 C&A in Europe has been an active participant in the ETI TNMS (Tamil Nadhu Multi-Stakeholder) work group, a forum under the auspices of the Ethical Trade Initiative (ETI). Through regular meetings with other industry players, we seek to identify and address concerns around working conditions for young women workers in the textile and garment sector of Tamil Nadu.
In addition to these initiatives, C&A Foundation is supporting several, industry-wide initiatives to eradicate bonded labour. In 2015, C&A Foundation launched a holistic hotspot programme, led by the Freedom Fund, to address the root cause of the problem while working to reduce vulnerability of adolescents and young workers in over 400 villages. In addition, its partnership with Terre des hommes and CARE-T (Community Awareness Research Education Trust) is providing sustainable rehabilitation options for around 9,000 former Sumangali scheme laborers and preventing the further exploitation of female workers. For more information on these initiatives, please visit the website of C&A Foundation: http://tinyurl.com/j5t8gfb
For more information on our activities to protect the employees in the supply chain please go to the concerned chapter in our Sustainability report: http://tinyurl.com/zbjnhfw