CREA's Work in Corporate Responsibility
Sustainable Living Wage - CREA’s core work on Sustainable Living Wage began in the early 1990’s, on the issue of wages for workers in the maquiladoras, the factories in which US companies were manufacturing products for import back into the US. At that time, these factories were directly owned by the US companies and so had total control of what wages were paid to workers. In the first report, done in 1993 before CREA was officially founded, CREA compared the purchasing power of automotive workers in the US with workers working for the same automotive company and producing the same products in Mexico. In this first stage of creating what has become the Purchasing Power Index, it was clearly established that the automotive companies took back between 65% and 80% of the purchasing power of workers with the job transfers. The effect was to keep poor workers poor.
(For more information on CREA’s work on Sustainable Living Wage/Income, click here.)
CREA’s Work with Gap
CREA”s work with Gap began as part of the campaign in 1995 throughout the US to get to set up what was then called “independent Monitoring” of the factory Mandarin International in San Salvador, El Salvador. At a time when more and more production of goods sold in the US were being produced in other countries, the letter writing campaign was designed to heighten people’s awareness of working conditions in other countries and to have letter writers come together to use their clout as consumers to bring about positive change.
Following the letter writing campaign which asked consumers to focus on “Black Friday” and the usually high volume sale time after Thanksgiving, Gapresponded by agreeing to set up independent monitoring of the working conditions in Mandarin while seeing what could be done to improve those conditions. In 1996, Gap established the IMWG (Independent Monitoring Working), of which CREA was a founding member along with two other organizations. The IMWG worked with Gap and with labor, human rights, academic and religious groups in El Salvador to create the group now known as GMIES (Grupo Monitoreo Independiente de El Salvador) the Independent Monitoring Group of El Salvador.
The IMWG members worked with Gap from 1996 until it was disbanded after setting up independent monitoring in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. The group was no longer needed when Gap internalized the monitoring process through the creation in 1999 of the Social Compliance Program which continues to this day and operates in all countries where sources products.
CREA’s second major work with Gap began with the formation in 2002 of what is today known as the PRWG or the Public Reporting Working Group. This was formed following shareholder request for public reporting on s supply chain and other activities. Members of the first PRWG included representatives of As You Sow, CREA, Domini Social Investment, and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. The first Gap report was ground breaking for several reasons. First, it was the first CSRE report done by any company following the Kasky vs. Nike lawsuit which challenged what Nike had reported. Following that lawsuit and subsequent financial settlement, no company had wanted to run the risk of being challenged, much less sued, on what it was reporting. Second, the first report was the first time ever that any company set out not only what the company was doing to improve working conditions in its supply chain factories, but also what the problems were that were found and needed to be addressed. No other company had ever publically reported on the problems or violations that were found.
Supported and encouraged by the members of the PRWG, Gap chose to run that risk. As members, we at CREA and the three other members knew that we were lending our credibility to the report. For all of us, it was a tremendous risk that we were setting out problems that existed in factories not owned by and yet producing products for Gap. The report contained a statement from the PRWG members as a whole as to why we were supporting the report.
The response from the media was overwhelmingly positive. Gap was congratulated for being willing to talk about the realities in factories, what it was doing to change those realities, and how the changes were being effected.
With that report as a model, has continued to report biannually not only on its supply chain but also on other social and environmental issues. The PRWG continues and CREA continues as a member, joined by a representative from Calvert Investments. Gap later invited CREA to submit an article for the report.
CREA’s article, entitled “It’s about the Workers” was published in full in the report as well as in the CREA newsletter.
CREA continued to work on various issues with Gap, and its social compliance program was one of the models that CREA brought to the attention of the US Department of Labor as part of CREA”s work on preventing forced and child labor in supply chains. As part of the project, CREA brought USDoL staff members into the field to see social compliance work in action. Gap’s programs in Bangladesh and Indonesia were two that participated.
CREA has written several articles in its newsletter Starting Points on the issue of fire safety in factories in general and fire safety in Bangladesh specifically. Gap has published several of these on its website.
Dayton Hudson to Target – CREA’s work with the Target Corporation began with its predecessor, Dayton Hudson, a company with many shareholders among religious groups in what was then the New England Coalition for Responsible Investing (NECRI), coordinated at the time by Sister Ruth Rosenbaum. Members of NECRI followed up on a report about working conditions in a factory in Haiti by asking each of the companies in their respective portfolios what they knew and did regarding working conditions and treatment of workers in factories where their products were produced. NECRI members were joined by faith-based investors from across the US in this project.
As a result of this, Jim Hale, then the senior legal counsel at Dayton Hudson, came to meet with the Investment Committee and Leadership of the Connecticut Sisters of Mercy and Sister Ruth. At this foundational meeting, a working relationship was developed that continues to the present time with Target.
Over the years CREA worked with Target as the company established its social compliance program which has responsibility for maintaining working conditions in factories where Target sources around the world. The Target social compliance program was one of the models that CREA highlighted in its worked for the US Department of Labor – funded project focusing on preventing forced and child labor in supply chains. CREA leads the shareholder group that works with Target on a spectrum of issues. These include sustainability, product safety, supply chains in other product areas including food, home goods, and fire safety in Bangladesh.