Four socially-responsible fund companies co-sponsored a conference on workplace standards earlier this month in Shanghai, China, the firms announced. The conference's goal was to improve factory manager's knowledge of international human and labor rights and standards and to eliminate sweatshops in China.

Domini Social Investments of New York, Ethical Funds of Toronto, Calvert Group of Bethesda, Md. and Walden Asset Management of Boston along with Verite of Amherst, Mass., a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating sweatshops and human and labor rights abuses worldwide, sponsored the conference.

Although none of the funds offered by the fund firms screen specifically for companies that abuse international human and labor rights, the groups recognize that it is an important issue, said Robert Walker, a vice president of socially responsible investment policy and research with Ethical Funds.

"Retail companies in North America sit on top of the consumer chain," said Walker. "We all bear responsibility to address these issues."

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