Green shopping carts in front of a mall in Forcalquier, Haute Provence, FrancePhoto: Martin

The public sector has a powerful role to play in increasing the demand for sustainably and fairly produced products. As a large scale consumer of a wide variety of products, the public sector can create significant leverage to bring about structural improvements on human rights and environmental conditions in the electronics, garment and textile industries.

We advocate for adoption of socially responsible and sustainable public procurement policies, conduct research on implementation of such policies, and document best practices. We advise public institutions in the Netherlands on operationalising the Dutch government’s policy for socially responsible public procurement.

We are a co-founder and board member of Electronics Watch, an independent monitoring organisation working to achieve respect for labour rights in the global electronics industry through socially responsible public purchasing in Europe.

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the bigger picture

Sustainable Supply Chains

Many of the problems facing people in middle and low income countries (indirectly) result from the practices and policies of multinational corporations at the end of the supply chain.

This can be seen in the supply chains of the garment industry, electronics sector, food production and pharmaceutical industry.

Bad working conditions and unsustainable practices

Many people in these sectors are working under inhumane and dangerous conditions with little or no respect for labour rights or environmental standards. Excessive hours, low wages and precarious employment conditions are common in supply chains of the garments, electronics and food sectors. It’s no coincidence that those who are especially vulnerable to abuse and exploitation – migrants, young people and women – are heavily employed in these sectors.

Binding regulations and good practices

Together with trade unions and other civil society organisations, SOMO presses for the promotion and protection of the rights of workers, communities and individuals in all stages of supply chains. SOMO pushes for regulation, policies and practices that ensure decent work and sustainability, including legally enforceable corporate accountability mechanisms and a leading role for workers in monitoring and ensuring improvement of workplace conditions. SOMO promotes sustainable public procurement which, by mobilising the massive purchasing power of the public sector, can bring about structural improvements in supply chains.

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Updates on this topic

First university joins Electronics Watch

This week, the University of Groningen (RUG) became the first Dutch university to join Electronics Watch, an independent European organisation that monitors working conditions in the electronics industry. Through Electronics Watch, the University of Groningen…

Workplace impacts of sustainability certification

On Thursday, 26 May, SOMO is organising a meeting for policymakers from sustainability certification bodies, manufacturers, supermarkets, governments and NGOs. In this private meeting, preliminary research on the impact of sustainability certification for working conditions in…

AFREWATCH strives for equal access to natural resources

SOMO published its new report ‘Cobalt Blues’ today. It includes a contribution by African Resources Watch (AFREWATCH) from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Emmanuel Umpala Nkumba, director of the nonprofit organisation AFREWATCH, discusses his…

Hanze University supports fair electronics

Hanze University of Applied Sciences is set to become the first Dutch institution of higher education to affiliate to Electronics Watch – an independent monitoring organisation helping public organisations source socially responsible IT products. Hanze…

Cooperation in WellMade project

The Fair Wear Foundation (FWF) is an initiative aimed at achieving improvements in the garment industry. Eighty companies have already joined. Together with SOMO, FWF has been working on the Wellmade project since 2013. Sophie…

Enter the photo competition and win a trip to Milan

Together with 22 organisations from 22 EU-member states, SOMO participates in a large project – SupplyCha!nge project – to make supermarket supply chains more fair and green. The first public activity in this project is…

Utrecht has set its heart on fair electronics

Following an initiative by the Green Party (‘GroenLinks’), Utrecht’s municipal council has decided (yesterday) to join Electronics Watch. This independent European monitoring organisation keeps track of labour conditions within the electronics industry. The municipality is…

Goodness guaranteed

Increasingly popular and widely implemented sustainability certification schemes like Rainforest Alliance or UTZ Certified aim to improve the working conditions of workers on farms in developing countries producing food for Western markets. New research shows…