#CloserThanYouThink: Why we’re calling for urgent action on forced labour for Human Rights Day 2023

Despite much progress, there has been a record level of worker rights violations around the world this year, according to the International Trade Union Confederation. Human rights abuses are still #CloserThanYouThink and no business can shy away from this problem.

While environmental and social sustainability challenges are often viewed separately, they are inherently connected. Climate change-related disasters are now, unfortunately, a regular occurrence in many regions, particularly in the Global South. These tropical and subtropical regions also happen to be the locations of many suppliers and manufacturers. 

The way forward is to prioritise a holistic approach to environmental and human rights due diligence. The cornerstone of the process should be the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.

It’s not just the right thing to do, but a necessity for businesses. A more humane supply chain is also a better one. It’s more resilient to rapidly changing economic, legal and sustainability environments – while responsive to evolving consumer and stakeholder expectations. 

We all have the right to work in a safe environment, but as we learned from COP28, this right is under growing threat, with more workers labouring in unbearable heat and pollution as the climate crisis intensifies. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights this week, businesses should use this opportunity to reflect on how they can accelerate human rights progress alongside their sustainability agendas. 

On behalf of the Human Rights Coalition, I urge all businesses to embed human rights due diligence into their operations, and put human rights at the heart of their sustainability agendas. Human rights can never be an afterthought. Companies must ensure that everyone working in their operations is protected from environmental threats and work towards holistic corporate due diligence.

Forced labour truly is everywhere, and often, it’s #CloserThanYouThink.

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