Protecting and Promoting Humanity

March 22, 2022

Anti-slavery legislation is becoming ever tougher, to the obvious benefit of all legitimate, ethical companies in the weaving industry as well as the weavers themselves. But making it all work as it should do will involve due care and attention on all sides, as Nina Smith of GoodWeave explains.

This article was written by GoodWeave CEO Nina Smith and first appeared on Cover Magazine on March 22, 2023.

Just before the pandemic lockdown in 2020, I had the good for tune to spend time with Sumitra, a child labour survivor now on track to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. The extreme hardship she and her family faced had led her to dropping out of school and becoming a child carpet weaver at a young age. She was freed when a US rug company joined with GoodWeave and voluntarily participated in our deep supply chain due diligence programme. She was then offered counselling support and the chance to return to school.

Handmade carpets in Nepal and India are among the 159 goods from seventy-eight countries known to be produced by child or forced labour. Now we have proven solutions to stop these abuses; and legal enforcement means business practices must respect basic human rights. Current and pending legislation in Australia, Canada, the European Union, Germany, France and the Netherlands, for example, will require companies to remedy any parts of their supply chains that could infringe on human rights, the environment or good governance.

These laws build on previous ones, such as the 2015 UK Modern Slavery Act, which requires UK companies of a certain size to report on how they are addressing modern slavery. A more rigorous US law came into effect in 2016, making illegal the importation of any goods made with forced labour into the United States. Onus is on the importing company to prove that its supply chains are clean before a shipment can be released. Withhold and Release Orders (WROs) issued by the US Customs and Border Protection can be country-specific, such as gold mined in eastern Congo, rough diamonds from the Marange fields in Zimbabwe, and all cotton from Turkmenistan. Company specific WROs have included a range of products, from Malaysian palm oil to garments in India.

I was personally involved in one WRO case related to hand-knotted carpets from Nepal. In December 2020, GoodWeave licensee Emma Gardner Design got in touch when a shipment from Nepal was held up at the Port of San Francisco. Patrick McDarrah, the design company’s president, told us, ‘After a few exchanges, it was revealed why—we were suspected of using forced or child labour at some point in the supply chain/ manufacture of our rugs. Once we understood we needed to address the “hold” at the agency level, rather than at the port of clearance, we immediately engaged GoodWeave and our Congressional delegation.

Read rest of the piece via Cover Magazine