Consumer good companies have been long committed to promoting decent working conditions worldwide, notably through our work in the Global Social Compliance Programme (GSCP) and other industry initiatives. But as highlighted by the UN Sustainable Development Goals, much work remains to be done and tackling some of the most pressing issues of our time requires us to strengthen current efforts through a collaborative, focused and long-term approach. The eradication of forced labour is one of those key challenges that is impossible to overcome as individual businesses, and constitutes an important industry priority. This is where the CGF can provide the appropriate platform: enabling our members to work together, with external stakeholders, governments and institutions to address and collaboratively fight this unacceptable issue.
It is indeed this collective approach that’s going to be key to our success.
Only by working closely with governments, civil society and on-the-ground initiatives will we be able see genuine success in our collective action on forced labour, and in effective steps to prevent, mitigate and remediate human rights impacts. This work began just three days after our announcement when our Managing Director Peter Freedman attended a roundtable in Rome where the Vatican announced it will ensure that its supply chains don’t use forced labour. Cardinal Pell, the keynote speaker, praised the CGF’s commitment in his opening remarks and confirmed the Vatican would do the same. We look forward to multiplying similar key engagements with a range of actors, since our definition of success is rooted in meaningful collaborations.
With the support of the CGF Board of Directors, the Social Sustainability Committee will dedicate itself to developing and putting into place efficient and innovative ways to tackle the multiple forms of forced labour. To do so, we now need more companies to get involved in our social working groups, which will not only provide opportunities for members to learn from one another and exchange best practices, but also allow us to build on the momentum achieved and move from paper to implementation.
As the only industry group bringing retailers and manufactures together globally, the CGF will be instrumental in harnessing the power of collective action to identify and address issues and geographies of shared concern and enhance the efficiency of existing individual company initiatives. Specific action plans will be jointly developed to support the eradication of forced labour, in alignment with the widely embraced guidance provided by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and other international frameworks including the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and the aforementioned UN Sustainable Development Goals.
With all this in mind, the next few months will be extremely important.
I know many people are interested in learning more about what’s next for our Resolution on Forced Labour and how we’ll be driving this forward. The good news is we are planning another announcement in March that will more clearly define what needs to be done to ensure success. We have lots of work to do before then, but given the engagement of our members, with special thanks going to our Social Sustainability Committee, we are confident we will be able to embark our industry and its partners on pragmatic yet ambitious collaborative actions.
In the meantime, I hope you’ll join us on this journey to promote human rights and decent working conditions worldwide. Don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or would like to get involved.
Director, Social Sustainability
The Consumer Goods Forum