SESSION RECORDING – Can Holistic Due Diligence Stop Child Labor? Exploring Strategies in Global Supply Chains

February 23, 2024

Session Recording:

Our virtual side session, part of the OECD Forum on Due Diligence in the Garment and Footwear Sector took place on February 23, 2024. To view the session recording, click here.


The OECD’s Due Diligence Guidance for Responsible Supply Chains in the Garment and Footwear Sector underscores child labor as a significant concern in these two sectors. The Guidance further highlights how supply chains’ complexity – marked by informality, subcontracting and low visibility – heightens the risk of abuses.

Garments and footwear are produced with child labor in key export countries such as Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, and Türkiye.1 Global statistics are also concerning, with 160 million child laborers worldwide, an increase of 8.4 million since 2016.2 Climate change and other humanitarian crises are further pushing children out of school and into labor. Mandatory human rights regulations and forced labor bans are increasing, as is demand from buyers and producers alike, to conduct effective due diligence and assess and mitigate adverse impacts caused by their operations.

In this webinar, experts from garment companies, government agencies, and grassroots and international organizations shared insights on actionable strategies to address child labor.

Session takeaways:

This session provided attendees with an understanding of key elements of effective, holistic due diligence, through practical examples. Here are some key take-aways:

  • We need a comprehensive approach to combat child labor. This includes strong laws, effective enforcement, and worker-driven social compliance. In addition, engaging unions and worker organizations is key to addressing the root causes of child labor and worker rights abuses and ensuring decent working conditions for workers. If parents earn decent wages, kids are less likely to engage in child labor.
  • Companies should focus their due diligence efforts on “hidden supply chains” – subcontracted worksites, as well as raw materials – which are challenging to trace and monitor, hence they pose heightened child labor risks. Through frequent, unannounced inspections, adequate resources, and continued supply chain mapping over multiple years, it is possible to trace these supply chains.
  • An “assess and address” strategy is much more effective than a “zero-tolerance approach”. This approach calls for proactive measures, trust, transparency and collaboration among brands and suppliers, as well as engagement with local organizations and active due diligence efforts.
  • Remediation must be centered around the best interest of the child, and include both immediate and long-term strategies, such as following up on children to ensure they are attending school. Prevention programs, carried out by local experts embedded in the communities they serve, are critical to reduce child labor in high-risk areas over time.
  • Climate change is a multiplier of vulnerability to child labor, forced labor and debt bondage. Research is demonstrating these impacts in several countries in South Asia. On the other hand, there is growing pressures on companies to demonstrate how they are environmentally sustainable from a consumers’ perspective. Businesses must engage with affected workers and local organizations, and invest resources to address these intertwined issues.


  • Thea Lee, Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs, US Department of Labor (Opening Remarks)
  • Adil Rehman, Head of Human Rights, ASOS
  • Marloes Philippo, Program Coordinator for the Fund Against Child Labour, Netherlands Enterprise Agency
  • Nasir Chowdhury, Project Director, Winrock International
  • Vinti Singal, Head of Inspection, Monitoring and Certification, GoodWeave Certification Private Limited
  • Jon Jacoby, CEO, GoodWeave International (Moderator)

1 US Department of Labor, List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor, 2023 | 2 ILO and UNICEF, Child Labour: Global estimates 2020, trends and the road forward, 2021