Striving to eradicate forced labour through collective action
Forced labour is an endemic social problem riddled throughout supply chains globally. With 28 million individuals victims of forced labour today, it is one of the most profitable global crimes and a problem of this magnitude cannot be solved by one person, company or industry acting alone.
The Human Rights Coalition (HRC) is uniquely positioned to drive the social sustainability conversation forward and help implement actions that lead to positive impacts. CEO-led, we work to achieve decent working conditions across the consumer goods industry and worldwide. Our Coalition was founded in 2020 to accelerate and align CGF members’ actions to eradicate forced labour after five progressive years of CGF efforts on the issue, including the publication of our industry’s first-ever Social Resolution on Forced Labour and the identification of the Priority Industry Principles.
Today, our work is focused on driving individual and collective action in our businesses and supply chains to:
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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. Of the 28 million people in forced labour, the ILO reports the overwhelming majority (63%) are found in the private sector. This is an unacceptable situation that the HRC is firmly committed to fighting.
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. Our work is also guided by our Priority Industry Principles, which were developed in 2016 in alignment with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and identify the three most problematic, yet often common, employment practices which can lead to cases of 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.
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:
The HRC is committed to upholding the consumer goods industry’s first-ever resolution on forced labour, which was issued by the CGF Board of Directors in 2015. It reads:
“As the Board of The Consumer Goods Forum, we recognise our role as responsible businesses to respect and promote human rights and decent working conditions worldwide, in alignment with ongoing efforts such as 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 recently launched United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As part of our wider efforts to promote human rights and decent working conditions worldwide, we acknowledge the broad societal problem of modern slavery and we strive to eradicate forced labour from our value chains. We will also continue not to tolerate forced labour within our own operations. To do so, we will harness the power of collective action as an industry group to identify and address issues and geographies of shared concern, enhancing the efficiency of any individual company initiatives in this area. In areas of shared concern, we will jointly develop specific action plans supporting the eradication of forced labour, in alignment with the widely embraced guidance provided by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. To achieve this ambitious goal, we will work closely with other industries, with governments and with civil society.”