Human Rights Guidance Tool for the Financial Sector
Human Rights Issues by Sector

Case Studies

August 2014, Bangladesh: The NGO Human Rights Now believes that exploitation of workers is continuing in garment factories. They say that initiatives focus only on improving the safety of factories and not on the rights of the workers. More...

November 2010, UK: An undercover television reporter, who worked for three months in workshops in Leicester stitching clothing for high street chains, found dirty and dangerous conditions. More...

General Manufacturing

This is a very wide ranging sector, which manufactures products from raw materials into finished goods. It includes intermediate manufacturing processes. For further information on raw materials and their initial processing, see: Metals and Mining, Oil and Gas, Agriculture and Fisheries and Forestry and Logging. The construction of manufacturing facilities may also have a significant impact: see Infrastructure.

Major manufacturing sub-sectors include:

  • Automobile
  • Aviation
  • Breweries and distilleries
  • Clothing and textiles
  • Defence
  • Electrical and optical equipment
  • Electroplating and metal finishing
  • Food, beverages and tobacco
  • Leather
  • Metal products
  • Mineral products
  • Pulp and paper
  • Rubber, plastics and derived products
  • Wood products

Key human rights related risks

  • Child labour, both in final manufacturing and in the supply chain
  • Workplace conditions, including low pay, long working hours and poor health and safety standards, in final manufacturing and in the supply chain
  • Product stewardship - consumer health and safety, product safety and labelling, and responsible marketing
  • Supply chain and ethical sourcing of materials
  • The environmental impact of manufacturing processes which can affect the health and livelihood of employees and communities.

Examples of voluntary and trade initiatives

  • The Ethical Trading Initiative: an alliance of companies, trade unions and voluntary organisations, working to improve the lives of people across the globe who make or grow consumer goods.
  • Fair Labor Association: works with industry, civil society organisations, and colleges and universities to protect workers' rights and improve working conditions by promoting adherence to international labour standards

There are links to these initiatives in Resources.


Core Operations

Workplace conditions

Workplace conditions include factors such as working hours, wages, health and safety and disciplinary practices.

Main issues for the general manufacturing sector:

Within the manufacturing sector, there are different issues, depending on the location and what processes, equipment and materials are used. A particular concern is that to reduce costs, businesses may move production to locations where standards and regulation are lower, exposing workers to greater risks. These include:

  • Health and safety: unsafe buildings (including fire risks); the use of hazardous chemicals, which may have both short and long-term risks to health; heavy machinery; ergonomic issues (eg lifting heavy loads); and insufficient information and training provision for workers on health and safety issues (or information not provided in languages appropriate to the workforce)
  • Poor employment conditions, including low wages, long hours, and compulsory overtime
  • Restrictions on freedom of association.

Child Labour

Children are widely employed in the manufacturing sector — this has been identified as a particular issue in clothing and textiles, but also applies in other sub-sectors.

Main issues for the general manufacturing sector:

  • Children working long hours and missing out on educational opportunities
  • Health and safety issues for children include the use of sharp tools, carrying loads too heavy for them and operating dangerous machinery.

Product stewardship

This includes consumer health and safety, product safety and labelling, and responsible marketing. Issues of concern will depend on the particular sub-sector.

Main issues for the general manufacturing sector:

Breweries and distilleries, food, beverages and tobacco

  • Consumer health issues
  • Responsible marketing, particularly to children and young people, and vulnerable groups.

Electrical and optical equipment

  • Product safety, including ensuring that instructions are in appropriate languages.

Rubber, plastics and derived products/Wood products

  • Product safety, particularly in relationship to toys and products intended for children.

Controls and mitigants

  • Compliance with local/national law is the starting point
  • Even if local/national law, standards or enforcement are lower than internationally accepted good practice, a company should apply the same consistent and effective management practices globally (on workforce, community health and safety, supplier screening, site safety and security)
  • Procedures to ensure that premises comply with international good practice in relation to fire and building safety
  • Health and safety plan communicated to all workers in their own language and supported by robust governance procedures
  • Policies and procedures on employment and protection of young workers including prevention and mitigation measures in relation to child labour
  • Provision of detailed information to consumers about correct product use (including any risks involved) and documented assurance that reasonable steps are taken to ensure that products are not made available to those likely to misuse them
  • Responsible marketing policy and procedures
  • Emergency response plan in the event of product recall on health and safety grounds.

Supply Chain

Companies face human rights issues and risks in their supply chain, as purchasers of goods and services from other companies/sub-contractors which may be associated with poor practice or controversy.

Information on supply chain issues for manufacturing is covered in other sector briefings:

Main issues for the general manufacturing sector:

  • Workplace conditions, including health and safety issues
  • Child labour
  • Sourcing raw materials, particularly in areas of conflict or where this impacts on the lifestyles of indigenous peoples
  • The safe transport and storage of materials at all stages in the production process

Controls and mitigants

  • Ethical and environmental supplier screening policy covering labour relations issues, sustainable/ethical sourcing of materials and transparency/bribery. Suppliers should be aware of potential hazards and have systems in place to protect workers and communities. They should be aware of certification schemes run by organisations like Forest Stewardship Council and Marine Stewardship Council
  • Clearly defined procedures around use of indigenous peoples' knowledge and resources, including payment, benefit-sharing or other consideration
  • Supplier screening policy which covers child labour and includes programmes to enable children who are working to attend and remain in quality education
  • Transport and storage risk management plans for handling hazardous materials, including training of drivers and other workers and action to increase local community awareness of risks.

Communities

Health and safety

Local people may be exposed to risks.

Main issues for the general manufacturing sector:

  • Storage and transport of hazardous materials may pose risks for local communities if inadequate standards are applied. Damage to health or local environment may occur through releases of hazardous materials
  • There may be a risk of contamination of natural resources from waste disposal and pollution, and subsequent damage to health of local people through contamination of the food chain or water supplies
  • Air pollution, dust and noise impacts.

Exploitation of resources

Local people may be disadvantaged by large scale use of resources.

Main issues for the general manufacturing sector:

  • Access to and use of water, energy and land for product manufacture may impact adversely on the community.

Major incident management

Companies need to respond appropriately to major incidents.

Main issues for the general manufacturing sector:

  • Failure to respond adequately to an emergency situation such as an explosion, leakage or other release of dangerous substances into the air, water or ground.

Controls and mitigants

  • A stakeholder engagement plan to ensure full and effective consultation with all stakeholders
  • Community awareness and education plan as part of health and safety measures
  • Emergency response plan to protect affected communities in the event of a major incident such as the release of hazardous materials. This should include the provision of emergency water and food supplies to local community if usual sources are contaminated
  • Assessment to evaluate the positive and adverse effects of a project on indigenous peoples and examine alternatives if adverse impacts are significant
  • Policies and procedures to ensure free, prior and informed consent of local and indigenous communities, ensuring that vulnerable groups are part of the consultation process and including a complaints mechanism available to local communities
  • Policies and procedures on the conservation and sustainable use of finite resources, which take account of local community need for these resources now and in the future.

Society and Governments

Standards of operation in different jurisdictions

National and local standards may fall short of international good practice, in terms of the testing and misuse of products.

Main issues for the general manufacturing sector:

  • Failure to apply acceptable management and policy standards where these are not required under local law
  • Potential for products to be used by illegal organisations, including counterfeiting and smuggling of branded goods.

Controls and mitigants

  • Compliance with local/national law is the starting point
  • Even if local/national law, standards or enforcement are lower than internationally accepted good practice, a company should apply the same consistent and effective management practices globally (on workforce, community health and safety, supplier screening, site safety and security)
  • Development of systems to ensure traceability of products and awareness of customers and their product needs.

See also the broader UNEP FI Environmental and Social Risk Briefing and Resources.

 

December 2014     United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative