Out now: KnowTheChain’s investor briefing on forced labour risks, remedy, and changing regulation
KnowTheChain’s monthly newsletter shares worker perspectives, the latest from the KnowTheChain team, and updates and resources on forced labour in supply chains in the business and human rights sphere.
Our investor briefing looking at forced labour risks, remedy and changing regulation analyses data on 184 companies in respect of the prevalence of forced labour in global supply chains across three high-risk sectors: ICT, food and beverage, and apparel and footwear. Despite some evidence of progress over time, the risk of forced labour across these sectors persists and where forced labour is uncovered, identifiable remediation efforts remain limited. Collectively encompassing 61% of the commodities at risk of forced labour, as listed by the US Department of Labor, the KnowTheChain benchmarks are also an important proxy for how the world’s largest companies are addressing forced labour risks, which remain considerable.
- Only halfof all companies assessed (50%) disclose carrying out a human rights risk assessment on their supply chains.
- Two thirdsof companies assessed (66%) do not disclose any forced labour risks identified in their supply chains.
- Only 17%of companies disclose remediation of forced labour cases in their supply chains.
- Of 43 companies linked to allegations of forced labour in supply chains, almost three quarters (72%) failed to provide evidence that impacted workers were remediated.
- 13%of 184 companies disclosed the repayment of recruitment fees to supply chain workers.
Migrant workers at Qatar’s World Cup stadiums face poor living conditions, remain unable to repay recruitment fees and are not permitted to change jobs. The Guardian reports that workers live in “windowless, cramped and dirty” accommodation. One worker says:
“I paid 300,000 [Bangladeshi taka; nearly £2,700]. Some pay a little more, some a little less, but everyone pays.”
Forced labour: The latest developments
The ILO, Walk Free and the IOM share updated estimates indicating that 49.6 million people are forced to work or marry against their will globally, marking a 25 percent increase from 2016 estimates. The organisations indicate that compounding crises including the Covid-19 pandemic, armed conflicts, and climate change have led to increased vulnerabilities and risks.
A report by the Office of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights finds “serious human rights violations” against Uyghur and “other predominantly Muslim communities” have been committed. A detailed rebuttal published by the Chinese government concluded that authorities in the region operate on the principle that everyone is equal before the law, “and the accusation that its policy is ‘based on discrimination’ is groundless.”
The European Commission proposes a prohibition of goods made using forced labour on the EU market. While praising certain aspects of the proposal such as the open database, and its application to all companies, organisations working to end forced labour comment that the proposal is too weak overall. In particular, the proposal plans to exclude goods from the market only after the existence of forced labour has concretely been established rather than suspected and places the burden of proof on European authorities.
For further news on forced labour in relation to business and human rights see the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre website.
View past issues of our newsletter in our Newsletter Archive.