This post originated from CSRWire.com at www.csrwire.com/csrlive/commentary_detail/101-The-Human-Cost-of-Greening-the-Supply-Chain-
By Conrad MacKerron, As You Sow Foundation
The greening of corporate America has a darker side that seems to tolerate dangerous conditions for workers. The emerging solar and renewable energy industries will bring green collar jobs to areas of the U.S. in desperate need of them. But corporations are still paying scant attention to the needs of the people in the global supply chain emerging markets where most manufacturing has shifted.
Let's look at the revved up Chinese economy where so many of our goods are now made. China has an occupational safety law. But it's only five years old and honored more in the breach than the observance. And it shows in the toll on workers' lives. China has the highest rate of death from work-related illnesses of any country. According to the International Labor Organization, 380,000 Chinese workers died of occupational illness in 2005 and millions more live with fatal diseases or with limbs missing from job-related accidents.
The Toyota Prius has become one of the most visible symbols of environmental consciousness. But a recent report from the National Labor Committee alleged abusive working conditions in Japanese factories assembling the Prius. The report said a third of assembly line workers are poorly paid temps, and that its parts supply chain is "riddled with sweatshop abuse", including the trafficking of tens of thousands of foreign guest workers. Many of them are working 16-hour shifts. And two years ago, Bloomberg Markets linked Toyota, GM and Ford to slave labor conditions in making the pig iron for the steel that ends up in their vehicles.