After benchmarks in 2016 and 2018 KnowTheChain has collected data with which to compare corporate practice across industries, and over time. From this data KnowTheChain has identified areas where progress has been made but also where corporate practice continues to fall short on addressing forced labor:
• Companies take little action to address exploitative recruitment practices. Fewer than half of the 119 companies assessed (41%) prohibit worker-paid recruitment fees, and fewer than 10% disclose evidence that they have reimbursed recruitment-related fees to workers in their supply chains. This lack of action is concerning considering that more than half (51%) of the workers in situations of forced labor in the private sector experience debt bondage (i.e., workers are forced to work to repay a debt, which is often accumulated through exorbitant recruitment fees).
• Companies show limited efforts to support and enable supply chain workers to exercise their rights. Only 13% of the companies disclose engaging with global or local trade unions to support freedom of association in their supply chains. Similarly, only 19% of the companies take steps to ensure that grievance mechanisms are communicated to workers in their supply chains.
• Buyers score higher than their suppliers, even though most buyers require their suppliers to cascade their standards to the next tier. Both the benchmark data and conversations with company representatives show that, when buyers address risks in the second tier of their supply chains, they tend to monitor second-tier suppliers directly and request first-tier suppliers to source from pre-qualified second-tier suppliers, rather than enabling first-tier suppliers to take ownership of their supply chains.
• Companies based in Asia score lower than those based in Europe and North America across sectors and themes. Even though there are documented cases of forced labor in the Asia-Pacific region and most of the production, particularly in the ICT and apparel sectors, takes place in this region, this isn’t reflected in additional due diligence and action by companies.