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close this bookAction Against Child Labour (ILO, 2000, 356 p.)
close this folder6. Strategies for employers and their organizations
View the documentLabelling or certification schemes
View the documentCorporate codes of conduct
View the documentIndustry codes of conduct
View the documentIOE views on voluntary codes of conduct and labelling

Labelling or certification schemes

A labelling or certification scheme aimed at the elimination of child labour, often referred to as "voluntary social labelling", involves affixing a ticket or label on goods to certify that they have not been manufactured by children. Labelling and certification schemes have been developed by many retailers and manufacturers who have come under criticism from civil and human rights groups for outsourcing to suppliers in developing countries where child labour is a problem. Some employers' associations in developing and developed countries have initiated certification and labelling schemes to prevent the boycott of their goods. The primary objective of these schemes is to inform consumers about the social conditions of production, and to assure them that the item they purchased was produced under fair and equitable working conditions, without the use of child labour.

According to an ILO study2 most voluntary social labelling initiatives share the following features:

2 J. Hilowitz: Labelling child labour products, A preliminary study (Geneva, ILO, 1997).

· the physical labelling of certain products, or of the retail outlets which sell specific products, by using either a descriptive label or a logo that has specific social meaning for its sponsors. The label or logo implies that certain social standards have been met in production;

· an outreach to consumers to inform them of the importance and social implications of purchasing the labelled products rather than any others;

· monitoring to ensure that the standards which the label promises to uphold are being maintained in the countries of production; and

· the collection of a levy from the retailers or importers to improve working conditions in the country of production.

Despite a number of common features, labelling schemes may vary widely in their objectives, target groups and means of operation. Problems most often associated with labelling include the limited extent of monitoring and inspection, the frequent lack of transparency for consumers and the unsure fate of the children working in industries targeted by labelling initiatives.

The ILO study suggests that labelling may offer prospects for helping some working children but must be used as part of a series of activities within a broader policy and strategy. This should include appropriate labour market legislation and oversight; the availability of educational and other alternatives for children; and awareness-raising among parents, employers' and workers' organizations, and the public at large. The study concludes that, within this larger picture, social labelling may establish a long-term place for itself as one way of helping children. However, the ILO is currently carrying out more in-depth research to assess the effectiveness and impact of social labelling on child labour.