News

UConn Wins Global Recognition for Ethical Supply Chain Efforts

via UConn Today

UConn is receiving global attention for its commitment to ethical supply chain management, licensing, and branding as the winner of the 2021 International Collegiate Licensing Association Service Award.

UConn’s commitment starts at the top with its President’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility, which the award notes sets the framework for ethical engagement. It extends through the University’s Vendor Code of Conduct, which lays out key terms of business engagement.

In addition, UConn has developed a broad range of programs and opportunities for teaching, research, and public engagement channeled through its Business and Human Rights Initiative (BHRI), a joint endeavor between the Human Rights Institute’s Dodd Impact and the UConn School of Business that extends opportunities for learning and policy dialogue beyond the classroom and into boardrooms and the public arena.

“Part of the ‘way that UConn does business’ is to educate in this manner,” the ICLA Service Award committee noted in selecting the University for the 2021 award.

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Living Wage Factory Closing Signals a Loss of Vital Alternatives


By Shareen Hertel
and Kyle Muncy

Work in the garment industry is a first rung into the formal employment sector for many people globally. The American and British industrial revolutions were powered by textile manufacturing. Countless waves of immigrants (largely women) sewed for a living – often for low wages, longer hours, and in dangerous conditions. As modern industrial safety laws and unionization led to more humane conditions in the wealthier countries, a race-to-the-bottom ensued as low-wage/high risk, non-unionized garment manufacturing shifted “offshore” to poorer nations.

The Alta Gracia factory in the Dominican Republic broke this mold. Founded in 2010 by Joe Bozich, a former pro-athlete who had successfully transitioned to manufacturing collegiate and sports-team-themed apparel, Alta Gracia paid two and a half times the Dominican minimum wage (i.e., workers earned roughly $2.60 an hour as opposed to the national minimum wage of roughly $1.06 an hour). A union was active on site and one of the top monitoring organizations in the labor rights field – the Workers’ Rights Consortium – had an office on site and brokered ongoing monitoring, compliance and engagement of workers and other stakeholders.

Hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the USA bought into the Alta Gracia brand, commissioning the company to sew their logos on t-shirts, hoodies, and other apparel: the faces of workers whose lives had been transformed by working for the company were on the hang-tags, and their stories were integral to the brand’s identity. Facemasks sewed by Alta Gracia workers has been given to each and every student, faculty and staff member at University of Connecticut (as well as other universities) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, the Alta Gracia factory is in danger of closing. The challenge of sustaining a viable volume of apparel orders during the pandemic is partly to blame. Shifts in ownership and resulting challenges in management and quality control have been another source of stress: the company has been sold and re-sold to three different holding companies in under a decade. But Alta Gracia’s closing is also a reflection of how little consumers pay attention to who makes our clothes. Those faces on the hang tags mattered when college students were in their bookstores, riffling through hoodies on the rack. But the online marketplace is awash in images – and the desire to “make up” for shipping costs or “save time” by buying from vendors with just-in-time delivery has meant that the price per garment is driven even lower with the click of a mouse and our distraction from the real story of the people behind the tag.

In Villa Altagracia, the small town where this company is based, the roughly 200 workers who have had jobs in the factory have been the lucky ones. Their friends and neighbors have sought to make ends meet with jobs that pay far less, or by piecing together income through part-time work or in jobs in the informal sector that are often unsafe and unregulated.

The prospect of losing Alta Gracia means losing a model of a factory that defied the race-to-the-bottom by building solidarity among people along the supply chain – including college students and university communities. Unless there’s an offer to buy the firm by investors who could bring it through the pandemic, we lose a key alternative for more socially sustainable business.

At the University of Connecticut, the Business and Human Rights Initiative has hosted events on the apparel sector and socially sustainable business in partnership with the President’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility, including “Protecting Rights at the End of the Line: Stakeholder Engagement in Light Manufacturing” and the “Corporate Social Responsibility and Human Rights Summit”.

For information on the Business and Human Rights Initiative at UConn, please visit https://businessandhumanrights.uconn.edu/.

For information on the President’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility at UConn, please visit https://csr.uconn.edu/.

Industry experts discuss the intersection of business and human rights in the college space

via The Daily Campus

With its athletic and academic programs garnering national acclaim, the University of Connecticut boasts far-reaching influence which in turn, solicits closer scrutiny by the greater public. When the school’s licensed apparel came under fire in 2005 for unethical sourcing, members of the community were called upon to serve on a task force for sweatshirt labor, eventually giving rise to the current President’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (PCCSR). With pressure from UConn’s heavily active Human Rights Institute and the collegiate community, the university seeks to remain socially responsible in its business endeavors with policies such as the Vendor Code of Conduct and continuous collaboration with peer institutes and organizations. On Nov. 20, the school’s Business and Human Rights Initiative hosted a roundtable on collegiate sourcing addressing those concerns in the current economic climate and in the face of COVID-19, featuring representatives from apparel manufacturers and those involved in corporate social responsibility in college spaces and beyond.

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Human Rights, Business Practices — and a Generation Ready to Make a Difference

via UConn Business

During the 10 years that Rachel Chambers worked as a barrister, practicing employment and discrimination law in the British courts, she occasionally wore formal attire: a full-length robe and a white, horsehair wig.

No wig is required in her role today as a UConn postdoctoral fellow and professor, where her international legal experiences, recent work for the United Nations, and passion for social justice prepared her to teach BLAW 3252: “Corporate Social Impact and Responsibility.”

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Waterbury Hosts Business and Human Rights Lecture Series

via UConn School of Business

The series is made possible by a gift from the David and Joan Reed Faculty Fellowship, which this year awarded the honor to Shareen Hertel, a professor of political science, member of the steering committee for the UConn Business & Human Rights Institute, and a human rights advocate. Hertel used the award, one of the top teaching honors bestowed on UConn faculty, to create the lecture series.

“Every day, each of us makes scores of decisions about what to eat, wear and use—yet we don’t often have the chance to stop and reflect on who made those products or how our consumption choices affect the environment and the broader world around us,” said Hertel.

The lecture series titled “Politics and Human Rights in Global Supply Chains” gives students and faculty the chance to hear from experts who have grappled with managing global supply chains for decades, she said.

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Investors Won’t Tolerate Corporate Misdeeds, Inhumanity

via UConn School of Business

Investment titan Amy Domini, widely considered a leading pioneer in socially responsible investing, came to UConn and shared what can only be described as good news.

Investor demands have radically changed the way corporations do business, and it is nearly impossible to find a major company today that isn’t re-examining or inventing policies that address human rights and environmental protection, she said.

“I don’t believe that companies have the right to make money from the destruction of our future,” she said in a keynote address titled, “How Responsible Investors Have Enabled Business to be a Solution to Human Suffering.”

The program was organized and hosted by the Business and Human Rights Initiative, of which the School of Business is a partner. Her keynote address kicked off a two-day symposium, which attracted leading scholars and practitioners from around the world to discuss the “human face of finance.”

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Amy Domini’s Keynote at Symposium on Finding the Human Face of Finance

On September 20-21, 2018, the Business and Human Rights Initiative hosted a Symposium on Finding the Human Face of Finance. Amy Domini, Founder and Chair of Domini Impact Investments, delivered the keynote address, entitled How Responsible Investors Have Enabled Business to be a Solution for Human Suffering”. Her remarks are re-printed here.

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Business and Human Rights Initiative Welcomes Post-Doc Rachel Chambers

via Human Rights Institute

This August, Rachel Chambers joined the Human Rights Institute as the first Postdoctoral Fellow in Business and Human Rights. Over the next year, she will engage in independent scholarly research in the field of business and human rights and teach in the Human Rights major. This fall, Rachel will be teaching BLAW/HRTS 3252 – Corporate Social Impact and Responsibility.

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Human Rights and the Supply Chain

via UConn Today

When a white paper was issued earlier this year from a recent UConn conference addressing how to protect human rights and promote social and environmental sustainability in the light manufacturing sector, the document became the most recent addition to resources that help the 200 students pursuing either major or minor studies in human rights.

One of the classes these students can take is an interdisciplinary class, Assessment for Human Rights & Sustainability. Over the past four years, students in the class have examined how companies assess their global supply chains to ensure designs and business practices that promote positive social and economic development, while minimizing the environmental impact on the communities where they make products.

The class was developed by Shareen Hertel, an associate professor of political science with a joint appointment in the Human Rights Institute, and former UConn engineering professor Allison MacKay, who now is a professor and chair of civil, environmental, and geodetic engineering at Ohio State University.

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