A New Approach

New Conversations Project calls for integrating sustainable labor practices
Thursday, January 19, 2017

In a new mission statement published today by the advisory board of Cornell University’s New Conversations Project: Sustainable Labor Practices in Global Supply Chains, members called for an integrated approach to more sustainable labor practices.

The approach would be based on three pillars: stable buyer-supplier relationships, responsible sourcing practices of buyers and sellers, and meaningful auditing that goes beyond ensuring basic compliances. All are based on the overarching principles of transparency and collaboration, said Professor Sarosh Kuruvilla, project academic lead.

The group noted that the current system based on corporate codes of conduct has yielded only mixed results to date, and articulated the urgency to identify new solutions.

Led by Bruce Raynor, former president of UNITE and UNITE HERE, the North American textile and apparel workers union, and former executive vice president, SEIU, Anna Burger, project executive director and former SEIU officer, and Kuruvilla, the project’s advisory board is made up of stakeholders from the business, labor, non-governmental organizations and academic sectors.  

The ILR School launched New Conversations a year ago to find pathways to more sustainable labor practices in global supply chains, particularly in the garment sector. The project is anchored by research on innovative practices that will promote sustainability.  

The project’s advisory board also announced plans to convene an invite-only conference on April 10 to discuss the group’s findings and explore potential solutions.

The conference intends to bring together stakeholders committed to improving labor standards in global supply chains to learn from new research on the Accord for Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh and the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety. The conference will explore the future of trade and roles stakeholders can play.

Board members of New Conversations are:

  • Anna Burger, executive director, New Conversations Project
  • Bruce Raynor, former president of UNITE and UNITE HERE, the North American textile and apparel workers union, and former executive vice president, SEIU
  • Diana Rhoten, associate partner, IDEO
  • Jill Tucker, head of supply chain innovation and transformation, C&A Foundation
  • Richard M. Locke, professor of political science and international affairs, and provost, Brown University
  • David Hayer, vice president of global sustainability, Gap Inc.
  • Tammy Rodriguez, director, Corporate Responsibility, Esquel Group
  • Jason Judd, senior technical officer, ILO, Bangkok
  • Deepa Saharia, undergraduate student, ILR, Cornell University
  • Jonathan Jacoby, program officer, Open Society Foundations
  • Amy Hall, director of social consciousness, Eileen Fisher
  • Nina Smith, founding executive director, GoodWeave International
  • Stuart Applebaum, president, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union
  • Sharon Waxman, president, CEO, Fair Labor Association
  • Harry Katz, professor, ILR School, Cornell University
  • Irit Tamir, advocacy manager, Oxfam America
  • Ben Boyd, president, Practices, Sectors & Offerings, New York
  • Rick Darling, executive director, Government & Public Affairs, Li & Fung Trading
  • Edgar Romney, secretary-treasurer Workers United, SEIU, IndustriALL

Related story: www.ilr.cornell.edu/news/time-right-change