by James C. Hyatt

The Fair Labor Association, founded in 1999, is a group of companies, civil society organizations and colleges and universities.  It monitors factories in the supply chains of affiliated companies to assess compliance with FLA standards and requirements.

Fair Labor Association Logo copyThe group – which agreed in February 2012 to conduct special audits of Apple Inc.’s Chinese manufacturing plants – requires participating companies to commit to allowing unannounced independent external monitoring audits and to enforce the FLA Workplace Code of Conduct in supplier facilities.

Most of the more than 30 participating companies are clothing and footwear makers; its website lists a dozen “participating suppliers” which commit to implementing its standards in their facilities.  The suppliers are based in China, Hong Kong, Pakistan, El Salvador, South Korea, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore.

In addition, more than 200 colleges and universities require licensees of college logo-bearing products to participate in the FLA licensee program.

According to its latest annual report, 38% of suppliers under FLA programs were in China (1,792 factories).  USA suppliers ranked second at almost 8% (366 factories).

While footwear and apparel make up much of the FLA’s activity, the group has been expanding into agriculture, “from child labor in hybrid seed production; to poor working conditions in cotton production in Uzbekistan, Pakistan and India; and unfair treatment of workers at cocoa farms in Africa and coffee estates in Central America.”