You are probably familiar with those instantly recognizable large red letters. Hennes & Mauritz AB, more commonly known as H&M, is a fashion retailer that offers clothing and accessories for men, women, and children. Currently headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, they are the world’s second largest clothing retailer after Zara-owner Inditex. H&M produces somewhere between 550 and 600 million garments annually. Recently, the fashion chain was accused of hiring employees as young as 14 to work 12-hour days in their factories in Myanmar, which is in breach of the country’s laws as well as the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) rules.
Around 260 million children are employed around the world, according to the ILO. Child labor has led to permanent physical and psychological damage as children are denied an education as well as confined and beaten. Many are abducted and forced to work. But solutions, regulations and new laws to thwart the exploitation of children can help fill the human rights gap.
On Feb. 10, experts in the field of corporate responsibility and child labor will converge at the Fashion Law Seminar to discuss international treaties and laws affecting child labor and sustainability. Moderator Frances Hadfield (Crowell & Moring LLP), Alice A. Kipel (Executive Director, Regulations and Rulings, U.S. Customs and Border Protection), Preetha Chakrabarti (Crowell & Moring LLP) and Joost Kooijmans (UNICEF) will explore best practices and due diligence. Register at www.fedbar.org/fashionlaw17.
As fast fashion retailers are called upon to speed up their supply chains, the sacrifices often fall upon children. Fast fashion has endangered children, pushing companies to find ever-cheaper sources of labor. To retain a competitive advantage, some companies have repositioned their manufacturing facilities to developing nations in order to utilize the availability of cheap child labor, which remains relatively unprotected by regulation.
Historically, children have received differing levels of care and respect. While there is consensus that child labor is detrimental to the mental and physical development of children, legal protections regarding child labor are limited, and enforcement powers of laws protecting children remains anemic. Nonetheless consumer pressure to know where products come from and how they are produced has had a noteworthy impact on the development of corporate codes of conduct and child labor laws.
Customers today hold brands accountable for the way products are made, not just the quality of the product itself. Voluntary codes of conduct, which limit or prohibit the use of child labor, can protect children from abusive labor practices.
Join the Federal Bar Association at The New School on Feb. 10 in New York City for an engrossing Fashion Law Seminar that explores issues concerning child labor and more. There is still time to take advantage of early bird pricing, observation only, and special law student rates. Visit www.fedbar.org/fashionlaw17 today!
Stacy Slotnick, Esq. holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She performs a broad range of duties as an entertainment lawyer, including drafting and negotiating contracts; addressing and litigating trademark, copyright, patent, and other IP issues; and directing the strategy and implementation of public relations, blogging, and social media campaigns.