Contractual remedies for human rights violations in the clothing industry

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Cremonesi, Giacomo Maria
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In the absence of a strong system of global justice, and given the limited ability of many developing countries to enforce Human Rights Law or even their own national labour laws, multinational corporations (MNCs) have developed their own “codes of conduct” as well as a variety of “monitoring” mechanisms aimed at enforcing their compliance. In order to reduce reputational risks and to enforce the HR norms included in their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) codes of conduct an increasing number of MNCs are incorporating these norms into contracts stipulated with their suppliers. This thesis analyses the main aspects and the possible benefits that this “contractualization” of Human Rights can provide for the implementation of HR law and for a correct Human Rights due diligence. In consideration of the peculiarities of the clothing industry, it is then illustrated how companies of this sector are currently enforcing CSR norms through contracts with particular attention to the sanctions provided therein. Moreover this dissertation analyses the possible legal consequences under international commercial law for non compliance with HR standards by the suppliers. Being aware of the shortcomings and weaknesses of contractual control, starting from an analysis of the best practices among the existing multi-stakeholders initiatives (MSI), it is proposed what should be the “new” role of an independent MSI in order to make contractual remedies an ethical instrument for a credible and effective HR protection. In the light of the foregoing this thesis contains a model contract clause for the clothing industry that aims to provide a better protection of HR standards in the supply chain and to strengthen the trust of the “ethical consumer”.
Second semester University: Maastricht University.
business corporations, codes of conduct, human rights violations, industry, labour law