Given that the agricultural sector is known to rely on seasonal workers who are often hired using third-party labor agencies and are vulnerable to exploitation, it is concerning that recruitment is the lowest scoring theme in the benchmark. Less than half of the companies in the benchmark have policies in place prohibiting worker-paid recruitment fees in their supply chains (18 out of 38). Although 13 companies identified migrant workers or recruitment practices as high risk in their supply chains, a disappointingly low number of companies have processes in place protecting migrant workers’ rights and prohibiting exploitative recruitment practices. This demonstrates that while companies may identify risks, their disclosure fails to show how they are taking steps to address those risks.
Less than a quarter of the companies described their approach to recruitment in their supply chains (eight out of 38). No company discloses a policy that requires the direct employment of workers in its supply chains, thereby eliminating the risks associated with employment agencies. Only five of 38 companies disclose that they require employment and/or recruitment agencies to adhere to policies upholding labor rights. Nestlé and Kellogg make clear that recruitment and employment agencies used by suppliers are required to adhere to their supply chain standard, which prohibits forced labor.
Companies do not disclose information on the recruitment agencies used in their supply chains. While some disclose membership in the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, which requires members to map their supply chains for recruitment risks, companies do not publish the outcomes of such mappings.
Eighteen out of 38 companies disclose a policy prohibiting worker-paid recruitment fees in their supply chains. Looking at the companies benchmarked in both 2016 and 2018, this is an improvement as the number of companies with policies in place prohibiting recruitment fees has increased from seven to ten. However, this is still notably low, given that migrant labor is inherent in the agricultural sector and, therefore, a risk all companies in the benchmark should be addressing. Moreover, despite having this policy in place, half of these companies (nine out of 38) fail to specify who must be responsible for bearing recruitment-related costs.
Additionally, only four out of 38 companies disclose a policy that requires fees to be reimbursed to workers (Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Unilever, and Walmart). No company gave evidence that fees were reimbursed to workers in their supply chains.
Less than a quarter of the companies (eight out of 38) disclose that they are taking steps to ensure that labor practices of employment and recruitment agencies in their supply chains are monitored. Furthermore, only six out of 38 companies explain how they support ethical recruitment in their supply chains (for example, by having screening and selection processes in place for recruitment agencies, by supporting the development of ethical recruitment schemes, or by working with suppliers to provide capacity-building for recruitment agencies). Coca-Cola, Kellogg, and Unilever provide guidance and training for suppliers on the subject of ethical recruitment and discuss their collaboration with AIM-PROGRESS.
Less than a third of the companies (12 out of 38) take steps to ensure that migrant workers in their supply chains understand the terms and conditions of their recruitment and employment. Policies more frequently prohibit passport retention: 21 out of 38 companies disclose a policy prohibiting the withholding of workers’ identification documents. Both Unilever and Wilmar additionally report instances when they have returned passports to suppliers’ workers, but otherwise, company efforts tend to be limited to having policy provisions in their codes, without explaining how these are implemented in practice.
While policies protecting migrant workers’ rights are few, examples of how migrant workers’ rights are protected in practice are even more scarce. Only two out of 38 companies, Unilever and Kellogg, give examples of how they have worked with suppliers to ensure that migrant workers’ rights are protected. Kellogg discloses that it has partnered with one of its Turkish apple suppliers to gather data on migrant workers.