Collective Action for Sustainable Supply Chains

According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), businesses have a responsibility to respect human rights. In doing so, they must take measures to address and prevent any negative human rights impacts that may occur in their business practices. Our Human Rights Coalition (HRC) offers a valuable space for businesses to work on upholding this responsibility by convening industry peers and experts to advance human rights due diligence industry-wide. To drive the most meaningful impact, our members focus on using due diligence to address the most salient human rights impacts in their operations and supply chains. For our industry, this means concentrating on forced labour: with more than 28 million victims across geographies, economies, and cultures – the overwhelming majority of whom work within the private sector – forced labour must be a top sustainability priority for consumer goods companies.

To fight this global challenge, our Coalition is leading industry efforts to strengthen due diligence systems throughout business practices to ensure Workers’ rights are protected, respected, and remedied at every step of the value chain. We work to make responsible recruitment and employment practices the norm globally with expert implementation support for industry-approved, evidence-based due diligence approaches. Additionally, we leverage our collective voice as a Coalition to advocate for strong policy environments human rights and  collaborate to explore and advance innovative solutions to achieve better outcomes for people and the planet.

Why Focus on Forced Labour?

Forced labour is an endemic social problem riddled throughout global supply chains. The International Labour Organization (ILO) defines forced labour as situations in which persons are coerced to work through the use of violence or intimidation, or by more subtle means, such as accumulated debt, retention of identity papers, or threats of denunciation to immigration authorities. This includes forced child labour, forced migrant labour, and human trafficking. 

We are prioritizing forced labour in our efforts given its high prevalence in both our industry and globally. Recent statistics from the ILO indicate that cases of forced labour have increased in the past ten years; in 2021, 28 million people were victims of forced labour, up from 25 million in 2016. The problem is a global one, impacting all regions of the world regardless of geography, culture, or economic status. In 2021, half of the forced labour cases identified by the ILO were in high- and upper-middle-income countries, even in those with laws prohibiting it. Our industry is also not immune: the overwhelming majority of forced labour cases were in the private sector, especially in operations integral to our industry, such as agricultural production, manufacturing, construction, and transportation. By addressing the endemic problem of forced labour, we know we can drive wide-ranging positive impacts for Workers worldwide.

To learn why forced labour is #CloserThanYouThink, watch our short explainer videos:

Principles for Collective Action

Forced labour does explicitly exist in the form of slavery and human trafficking, but it can also exist in more implicit ways. While certain employment and recruitment practices may not initially appear problematic, in aggregate or combined with other forms of leverage, they can result in forced labour, particularly among vulnerable Workers. 

The ILO has identified 11 indicators of forced labour which, either separately or together, can indicate someone is in a case of forced labour. In alignment with these indicators, the CGF Priority Industry Principles (PIPs) identify three of the most common, yet problematic, employment practices that can lead to cases of forced labour. While the PIPs do not cover all 11 ILO Indicators, they help businesses prioritise action to address forced labour’s primary drivers.

The Priority Industry Principles

CGF Priority Industry Principles on Forced Labour

These three Priority Industry Principles help us prioritise action to address the primary drivers of forced labour within the consumer goods industry and beyond. While the PIPs do not cover all drivers of forced labour, they have been developed in alignment with the ILO Indicators of Forced Labour.

We will take active measures to apply these Principles across our global value chains and own operations, to cases where such practices may lead to forced labour. We seek to apply these Principles to all workers regardless of their employment status, location, contractual arrangements or role. We do this as part of our collective journey to advance the human rights of workers and positively shape global labour markets.

For guidance on implementing the PIPs in your business practices, click here.

The Priority Industry Principles identify the three most common, yet problematic, employment practices that can lead to cases of forced labour. They are aligned with the ILO’s Indicators of Forced Labour:

  • Abuse of vulnerability: Covered by PIPs 1, 2, and 3
  • Deception: Covered by PIP 3
  • Restriction of movement: Covered by PIP 2
  • Isolation: Covered by PIP 1
  • Physical and sexual violence: Covered by PIP 2
  • Intimidation and threats: Covered by PIP 2
  • Retention of identity documents: Covered by PIP 2
  • Withholding of wages: Covered by PIP 3
  • Debt bondage: Covered by PIPs 1 and 3
  • Abusive working and living conditions: Covered by PIP 3
  • Excessive overtime: Covered by PIP 3

Doing Our Part With Due Diligence

Given the endemic presence of forced labour in the consumer goods industry, its systemic drivers, and the variety of ways in which it presents, businesses must adopt robust approaches to identify, address, and prevent forced labour risks. Human rights due diligence (HRDD) is a key tool for doing so; therefore, implementing, strengthening, and scaling up HRDD practices throughout the value chain is a key area of action for our Coalition. This approach is now increasingly being mandated via regulatory frameworks requiring businesses to demonstrate robust HRDD practices in their supply chains (mandatory HRDD, or mHRDD).

As a collective, our Coalition seeks to eradicate forced labour from our industry by ensuring robust supply chain management and due diligence systems are in place throughout the value chain. To drive the most impact, we focus on three areas of action: first, we are acting beyond the scope of many voluntary due diligence commitments and mHRDD frameworks by helping businesses implement HRDD systems in their own operations. This area of the value chain has been less of a priority for due diligence efforts and therefore remains at a high-risk for forced labour. Second, our Coalition brings together members and suppliers to address sector-specific challenges related to forced labour and responsible recruitment. They work together to help suppliers implement a similar due diligence approach the one used in our members’ own operations. Finally, we leverage our collective voice as leading industry actors to advocate for strong policy environments that protect human rights.

Ready to Join Us?

Ready to start your human rights journey? Looking to improve your approach? Access our open-source tools and templates to help advance your work, and contact the HRC team to learn how you can join our Coalition.