Ensuring rights and standards on farms
Geneva – 23 November 2017
On 15th November 2017, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published an article highlighting the Sustainable Tobacco Program (STP), an industry-wide standard which, among other things, prohibits all children under 18 from handling green tobacco on farms. The HRW article rightly lauded the STP as a policy that promises to protect millions of children from Green Tobacco Sickness (GTS), but the STP’s value goes much further as a programme to put international legal human rights guidelines and conventions into practice.
Tools like the STP and the ECLT Members’ Pledge of Commitment and Minimum Requirements on combatting child labour, are important for companies to ensure that they uphold international human rights standards throughout their supply chains. In practice, the STP builds on and complements the ECLT Members’ Pledge. The Pledge is a commitment and it provides a framework for ECLT members to align, reinforce and, where necessary, strengthen their policies and practices against child labour. The STP, which is facilitated by the independent supply chain management company AB Sustain, can be considered a standard that operationalises the commitment of companies to end child labour in tobacco sourcing, as well as address other issues related to sustainability and human rights.
The main strength of the STP and the Pledge is that they are both anchored in international standards, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), the ILO Fundamental Conventions and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As endorsed in the UNGPs, the underlying objective of both the STP and the Pledge is continuous improvement, meaning that companies commit to progressively improve practices, work to address any gaps and provide remedy when violations occur.
Translating these international standards into concrete practice is a cyclical process, as we see from resources like the newly-released second edition of the UN Global Compact’s Supply Chain Sustainability: a Practical Guide for Continuous Improvement. Aligning best practices within sectors, like through the ECLT Member’s Pledge and the STP, as well as sharing between sectors can help companies make sustainable progress faster, ultimately benefiting workers, families and communities.
The ECLT Foundation looks forward to the upcoming UN Forum on Business and Human Rights focusing on “Realizing Access to Effective Remedy.” This year’s Forum will be an important opportunity to share good practices and challenges on taking action when rights violations occur despite commitments like the Pledge and programmes like STP.
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