We spoke to Nina Smith, the CEO of the non-profit organization, to learn more about the team’s work and understand better how brands and consumers can be better participants in ending the human rights crisis.

GoodWeave International was born in 1994, when Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi set out to take action on stopping pervasive child labour with a grassroots initiative. Fast forward 26 years, and the non-profit organization – which began addressing the problem within the carpet industry and has recently entered other sectors – has grown into an international multi-faceted institution. Employing a market-based, holistic system, the team helps boost transparency in global supply chains, protecting and finding solutions for vulnerable children in addition to informal and marginalized workers.

The NGO reports that, with its system, it has ‘rescued 7,600 children from labour, provided quality education to more than 37,000 rescued and vulnerable children, and deterred hundreds of thousands of children from entering labour’ in that time; its product certifications ensure to consumers that all offerings marked with the label have been manufactured without child labour. One of the team’s recent projects has involved partnering with Bangladesh’s Awaj Foundation to provide relief to apparel workers impacted by COVID-19 and conduct research about its consequence on the community. ‘All forms of modern slavery will increase because of the COVID-19 crisis,’ said CEO Nina Smith in a statement, making it clear that there is none the time more pressing to identify how the design industry – and all industries – can rise to the imperative responsibility of joining in on GoodWeave’s mission.

Child carpet weaver, Nepal. Photo: The Studio_M, the studiom.com

Can you explain the organization’s system, and how it has evolved over time to better serve those children affected?

NINA SMITH: GoodWeave works to stop child labour across global supply chains. We’re known for our GoodWeave® certification label that assures companies and consumers that no child, forced or bonded labour was used in the making of carpets and home textile goods. Behind that label, our System involves partnering with brands to build visibility into their supply chains as well as mapping and inspecting all production units, including factories, small units and home-based labour on a regular, random unannounced basis. When child labour is found, we ensure their rescue and rehabilitation. Furthermore we implement programmes that address the root causes of child labour with an emphasis on ensuring quality education to children in worker communities.

Over the years, we’ve expanded our efforts and now GoodWeave also works to build the capacity of organizations working in supply chains of other product categories, such as tea and bricks, to increase their ability to address child labour. In the apparel sector, we are implementing our holistic approach through our own programmes, as well as training other organizations.

Approximately one in 10 children are trapped in child labour globally. What we’ve learned is that the majority of those children are hidden in complex, opaque supply chains

What does the monitoring and evaluation process look like? How does a brand ultimately achieve GoodWeave certification?

First, participating companies sign an agreement in which they agree to comply with the requirements of GoodWeave’s Standard. Then manufacturers undergo an initial supply chain assessment, where the majority of production sites are evaluated against the Standard. Major non-compliances identified are remediated and an assessment report is submitted to an independent Certification Committee.

The committee decides if the company is approved as a GoodWeave licensee, eligible for GoodWeave Certification, or if they need to address any further non-conformities first. Once suppliers become approved licensees, they continue to undergo inspections. If any child, forced or bonded labour is identified, certification labels are withheld and participation of repeat violators is stopped.

A GoodWeave beneficiary and former child labourer, Muskaan, in front of the Motivation and Learning Centre where she receives extra tutoring after school, India. Photo: The Studio_M, thestudiom.com

GoodWeave's Child Friendly Community program mobilizes entire communities to ensure every school-age child has access to education, India. Photo: The Studio_M, thestudiom.com

You mentioned previously that your team’s work has recently extended to pilot programmes for apparel, fashion jewellery, home textiles, tea, and bricks. What has this upsize revealed about the scale of the child labour crisis? How does the issue vary depending on the specific supply chain?

Approximately one in 10 children are trapped in child labour globally. What we’ve learned is that the majority of those children are hidden in complex, opaque supply chains. Brands and retailers invest their own supply chain due diligence in their primary (or Tier One) production facilities, while often the majority of their production occurs outside of those sites. In India, for example, we’ve seen that a typical Tier One supplier may have 80 production sites linked to it. So, the crisis you refer to is mostly occurring in the outsourced supply chain in informal production units that include home-based production.

The situation does vary sector to sector. For instance, for apparel that is embroidered or has other embellishments, home-based workers are heavily involved and there is widespread use of child labour where girls work alongside their mothers stitching instead of attending school. Recently, we conducted a rapid research project to highlight the impact of COVID-19 on workers and families in carpet, home textile and apparel producing communities in South Asia. The data shows widespread job loss, wage reduction, worker debt and out-of-school children – all factors that contribute to child labour.

One particularly shocking statistic is that 72 million of the 152 million child labourers around the world are doing jobs that pose immediate risk to their health, safety and wellbeing. How does GoodWeave identify and help these children who are most at risk?

In addition to our inspection and monitoring work, GoodWeave conducts household surveys in the communities where we are working with specific supply chains to understand more about the status of children: Are they enrolled in school? Are their learning levels age-appropriate? Do they have regular attendance in class? Et cetera. These investigations enable us to identify children requiring educational support. 

Are there more effective ways that design brands and producers can grow their awareness about exploitation in their supply chains and take a more active stance in eliminating the child labour crisis? And consumers? 

Yes: brands and producers might be interested in reviewing the annual report released by the U.S. Department of Labor entitled, 'List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor' available here.  They may also wish to review GoodWeave’s website and our Standard and associated guidance documents – we also conduct select capacity building training sessions.

Resources for consumers include these videos on our website and looking out for the GoodWeave label on carpet and home textile products.


Hero image: The GoodWeave label serves as the best assurance that no child labour was used in the making of carpet and home textile products. Photo: Nitin Gera