Society is placing increasing expectations on major brands and retailers to actively engage in efforts to protect the basic rights of the workers in their global supply chains, including their right to a safe and healthful workplace. The combination of private voluntary standards and compliance monitoring has proliferated to become the foremost method for global brands and retailers to substantiate acceptable working conditions in their global supply chains. Unfortunately, the results from over a decade of investigations into private voluntary standards and compliance monitoring indicate that, in and of itself, this model fails to deliver significant and sustained improvements in working conditions across global suppliers.
The newly issued standard, ISO 45001 Occupational health and safety management systems offers an effective alternative to improving safety and health in the supply chain that addresses many of the shortfalls of this current approach. First, by requiring global brands that adopt the standard to consider the potential unintentional effects of their own business decisions on their suppliers’ safety and health, and then through establishing the requirement that companies adopting ISO 45001 ensure that the hazards of their outsourced processes are controlling for potential adverse impacts to employee health and safety.
There are numerous advantages of an ISO45001 based approach to managing potential adverse impacts to employee health and safety in global supply chains including increased flexibility for suppliers to determine appropriate methods to control their hazards, instilling responsibility for worker health and safety within the suppliers, allowing safety and health improvements to penetrate layers of the supply chain beyond the 1st tier suppliers, and supporting compliance with local governmental safety and health initiatives.