Last year, KnowTheChain identified three sectors with the highest risk of forced labor in their supply chains and benchmarked 60 companies within those sectors. It was the first analysis of its kind, focusing specifically on forced labor risks and the corporate policies and practices developed by companies in response. In order to build on the momentum of this first set of reports, KnowTheChain worked to identify lessons and recommendations that can benefit companies across all sectors. This report is the product of those efforts.
Through the benchmarking process, we were encouraged to see a growing awareness amongst companies of the risk of forced labor in their supply chains. The fact that companies are increasingly developing policies to address this risk should be celebrated. On the other hand, our findings show that these policies often fall short, and action even shorter—awareness needs to be translated into further action.
Across all three sectors, we found that many company efforts begin and end with their first-tier suppliers, overlooking lower tiers where labor abuses are pervasive. We also found that companies, investors, and business associations need to prioritize empowering workers, rethinking recruitment practices, and developing robust grievance and remedy mechanisms. If there is one thing that is clear after KnowTheChain’s initial benchmarking, it is that all evaluated companies have a long way to go to truly address the risk of forced labor in their supply chains.
We recognize that this work is difficult and forced labor is a complex issue. Yet, we are seeing encouraging resources and tools emerge to help companies on this journey. New mobile platforms are being developed that help workers use their collective voice. Innovative recruitment models are gaining traction to help minimize the risks associated with hiring practices. Companies and investors need to invest the time and resources that match the severity of the risk they seek to avoid. In order to protect vulnerable workers, companies should embrace leadership by pushing beyond policy and practice and find opportunities to implement innovative solutions.
It is often said that companies have a responsibility to address forced labor in their supply chains. Today, as a result of having these benchmark reports on hand, companies and investors have an even greater opportunity to take meaningful action.
Managing Director, Humanity United