Manufacturers Take Safety, Environmental Standards Overseas

A joint report issued by The National Association of Manufacturers and the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI finds that U.S.\r\nmanufacturers take along high ethical, labor and environmental\r\nstandards to their overseas operations.

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A joint report issued by The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI finds that U.S. manufacturers take along high ethical, labor and environmental standards to their overseas operations.

"By exporting American standards through trade and investment, American companies not only help improve ethical, labor and environmental standards abroad, they help build respect for the human rights at the core of democracy and high standards of living," said Dr. Thomas Duesterberg, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Alliance/MAPI at a news conference last week.

"Most importantly, this report belies the claims of trade opponents that trade liberalization creates a race to the bottom -- it''s really a race to the top," said NAM President Jerry Jasinowski. "Clearly America''s manufacturers are exporting their high labor and environmental standards to their operations abroad. This report will provide a useful benchmark for other companies to emulate."

The report, "U.S. Manufacturing Industry''s Impact on Ethical, Labor, and Environmental Standards in Developing Countries: A Survey of Current Practices," examines 44 companies and cites more than 300 examples of specific "good practices" in 42 nations, covering a wide range of labor and environmental standards.

Among the report''s key findings:

  • Eighty-seven percent of respondents have detailed policies on health and safety standards for workers, often clearly above normal practices in particular developing countries. American Axle & Manufacturing, for example, only hires individuals who are 18 or over in Mexico, despite a legal working age of 16.
  • Seventy-eight percent have environmental management systems that contain measurable objectives and/or targets for improved environmental performance. One, General Motors, has goals for facility resource conservation and pollution prevention by 2002, including the reduction of non-product output by 30 percent, energy use by 20 percent, and water use by 20 percent.
  • Nearly 70 percent of respondents provide training in developing countries for improved environmental performance.

"Beyond good corporate citizenship, there''s an elementary logic at work here," Jasinowski said. "Productivity is the key to global competitiveness, and the most productive manufacturers are those with the most seamless operations. It doesn''t make business sense -- nor does it save money -- to use different standards between factories just because they''re in different countries."

Added Duesterberg, "American manufacturers are helping to build future prosperity and freedom in developing countries by exporting ethical, environmental and management training to local executives."

by Virginia Sutcliffe

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