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Verite: Winner's Statement

Social Capitalists

Verite

Verite is an independent, non-profit global social monitoring organization. Verite's mission is to ensure that people worldwide work under safe, fair, and legal conditions.

The organization was established in 1995 by Heather White, Founder and President, who identified a new need for monitoring, advocating, and improving labor rights in the global workplace. White felt a rising sense of alarm concerning child labor and deaths in factory fires that were emerging as negative side effects of our increasingly global society. She was discouraged by the lack of products made under humane working conditions and felt a sense of frustration concerning our inability as consumers to purchase products guaranteed to be made under fair and safe working conditions.

Today, Verite is an advocate for best practices by employers to empower, support, and protect workers in the global workplace. Verite works with companies that are leading the way in social compliance and monitoring. "We are ensuring workers' voices are strategically heard in multinational headquarters and the comprehensive, flexible and integrated accountability services, programs, and research are valued by our clients and recognized by stakeholders as a necessary nonprofit position on change", White says.

Verite's work to harmonize global monitoring systems, relieve workers bonded in difficulty, and collaborate with companies and governments through effective partnerships is urgent. It represents a fundamental change in the current global business model. The critical need for Verite's work crosses the spectrum of global labor issues: The impact of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases on the supplier working population in countries such as South Africa and Swaziland is widespread. Women contract workers are often forced to undergo pregnancy testing as a prerequisite to employment. Verite has recently identified the worst cases of sexual harassment and health violations seen through our labor conditions monitoring in Southern African factories. In the IT factories in India, Verite continues to find discrimination against married women and age discrimination. In China, managers conceal overtime violations and workers are under-compensated by as much as half.

Verite has a multi-stakeholder approach to addressing social and environmental issues in the corporate global supply chain, from factories to the board rooms. Verite's clients and partners range from Fortune 500 corporations to government and social investment institutions and NGOs around the world. In over 65 countries, Verite works with corporate brands, human rights and women's organizations, and governments to raise global labor standards and to seek systemic resolutions to workplace problems. As Tommy Hilfiger Corporation says, "Verite is a truly pioneering organization. They understood long ago the inextricable linkages between profitability and accountability. Their knowledge about complex social issues, and their ability to make them relevant to global manufacturers, is unparalleled."

To date, Verite has addressed and resolved critical labor problems in areas of health and safety, child labor, migrant labor, women's rights, and compensation. A line worker at the Pou Yuen Shoe Factory in China told a Verite trainer, "I have been working in the shoe factory for a long time. Conditions have changed thanks to Verite. Our health and safety conditions are better, there is less harassment and factory managers are beginning to make code of conduct changes to protect us." In only the past two years, Verite has improved working conditions for over 2 million workers through corporate social compliance training of clients and factory managers. In 2000-2003, Verite conducted remediation of labor problems and worker and management training at factories employing over 50,000 workers in China, focused on women's rights, labor law, health, reproductive rights, and HIV/AIDS. Over 90% of the participants were young women, mostly migrant workers, living in poverty, at high risk of contracting infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Recently, with six corporate partners, Verite created a multi-stakeholder program to research and disseminate solutions to endemic wage violations and overtime abuses within factories in China. Verite is on the front line of a global struggle for human dignity in the workplace.

White's original vision for the organization was that all workers around the world would have access to the resources required to re-imagine and reshape their lives. The same vision holds true today. Our vision is to ensure a full commitment on the part of U.S. brands and factories to operate and manufacture only according to the highest of local and international social and environmental standards. There are still millions of people worldwide that work under inhumane conditions so Verite is now focused on creating even broader vehicles of change in the global workplace. We need to ensure that workers worldwide are safe, fairly compensated, and treated with human dignity.

The above information was provided by the profiled organization.