‘Responsibility’ standard for China textile industry emerges from EU project
Corporate Social Responsibility | Labour and Migration
China’s National Textile and Apparel Council, a government-led industry association, is piloting a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) standard among ten member enterprises and is likely to extend this to the whole industry, a Council leader revealed at a EU-China symposium on CSR held in Beijing in July.
Formulated last year, the China Social Compliance standard for the industry (CSC9000T) is one outcome of a five-year EU-China Trade Programme that, since June 2004, has worked to support China’s integration into the world trading system. The European Commission has committed EUR 20.6 million (USD 26.4 million) to the programme, making it the EU’s largest ever trade-related technical assistance project.
Chen Shujin (陈树津), Vice President and Secretary General of the Textile and Apparel Council, told China Development Brief that although private institutions and big buyers worldwide have formulated more than 200 CSR standards few of these are suitable to China’s national situation, making it necessary and important for Chinese industry to work out its own.
China’s textile and apparel industry, says Sun Ruizhe (孙瑞哲), Director of the Council’s Office for Promoting Social Responsibility, employs nearly twenty million workers in several thousand enterprises, affecting the livelihoods of 100 million rural people. But soaring exports of cheap textiles have caused trade frictions between China and other nations, especially EU member states where employment standards are high.
In an opening speech to the seminar, Heinz Zourek, Deputy EU Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry, defined CSR as companies’ efforts to “integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations and in their interaction with stakeholders on a voluntary basis.”
The EU published its first official policy paper on CSR in 2002. A new policy, introduced in March 2006, gives CSR a more prominent role in the EU’s overall “strategy for growth and jobs” and encourages private sector contributions to sustainable development.
Ms. Ou Xinqian (欧新黔), Vice Chair of China’s powerful National Reform and Development Commission, told the July symposium that CSR matches the government of China’s goal of building a people-centred, harmonious society, and encouraged other industrial sectors to follow the textile industry’s lead. CSR has been a hot topic in China over the last few years, frequently endorsed by senior government officials.
Prior to the symposium, representatives from enterprises, trade unions and the Textile and Apparel Council had vsited three European countries under the auspices of the EU programme, to deepen understanding of CSR on both sides.
The next step for the programme, planned for the late Autumn, will be to deliver CSR training to local officials and senior enterprises managers from Fujian, Guangdong and Zhejiang, the three largest textile regions and major exporters.
In addition to representatives from enterprises and various government agencies, several Chinese NGOs attended the July symposium as stakeholders.
Report by Tina Qian, August 1 2006