The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) has today offered its support of a new tool to support Human Rights Due Diligence (HRDD) from a collective of United Nations agencies that focuses on protecting seafarers stranded on ships due to new COVID-19 variants and government-imposed travel restrictions. The framework, entitled “Maritime Human Rights Risks and the Covid-19 Crew Change Crisis: A Tool to Support Human Rights Due Diligence,” has been issued under a joint initiative by the UN Global Compact, UN Human Rights Office, the International Labour Organization, and the International Maritime Organization.

The new UN HRDD tool calls for business enterprises to undertake a “wide-ranging human rights checklist” to “help ensure working conditions and human rights of seafarers are respected and comply with international standards”. Throughout this checklist is a common theme of needing greater collaboration to ensure all stakeholders are appraised of issues and can drive opportunities for collaboration; the letter issued by the CGF Board of Directors in September 2020 to the UN Secretary-General, which calls for the UN to urge governments to identify seafarers as “key workers” to protect their human rights and ensure their wellbeing, is included in the tool as an example of such collective action.

In a press release issued by the UN Global Compact, CGF Managing Director Wai-Chan Chan said, “The Consumer Goods Forum welcomes this new tool to urgently support the safety, health, and wellbeing of those working at sea. As our Board of Directors wrote to the UN Secretary-General last fall, not only has the Covid-19 crisis disrupted the maritime industry’s contribution to global supply chains, but it has also inadvertently created a modern form of forced labour. This is an unacceptable situation and we support the call for all actors across sectors to work collaboratively and quickly to resolve it.”

The CGF is among many international organisations that has supported the new tool, including the Sustainable Shipping Initiative, the World Economic Forum, the Global Maritime Forum, and the Ethical Trading Initiative. The International Transport Workers’ Federation, the International Chamber of Shipping, the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), the Rafto Foundation for Human Rights, and the OECD actively contributed to the development of the guidance.

The support is also in alignment with the CGF’s ambition to encourage companies to implement HRDD systems as part of its work to ensure decent working conditions across the consumer goods industry. This has been most recently demonstrated in the March publication of the CGF’s Human Rights Coalition – Working to End Forced Labour’s (HRC) Maturity Journey Framework for Forced Labour-focused HRDD Systems in HRC Members’ Own Operations. It also echoes the CGF’s Sustainable Supply Chain Initiative (SSCI)’s ongoing efforts with the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI) to develop a social compliance benchmark for At-Sea Operations. This benchmark aims to support the seafood industry in driving alignment among sustainability standards in the sector and support the protection of seafarers and other maritime workers’ rights.

To learn more about the CGF’s social sustainability work, learn more about the HRC and the SSCI.