Identifying, addressing, and preventing human rights risks
According to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, due diligence is the cornerstone of any human rights approach, proven to be an effective response to salient human rights risks and impacts. To fufill their responsibility to respect human rights outlined in the UNGPs, businesses have made good progress creating voluntary commitments to implement due diligence in their supply chains. Today, this responsibility is increasingly becoming mandatory as states, in efforts to protect human rights, require businesses to demostrate robust supply chain management practices in mandatory human rights due diligence legislation (mHRDD).
We recognise the advancement of due diligence as a win-win for businesses and Workers alike. For companies, due diligence at its core helps businesses identify, address, and prevent human rights risks throughout their business practices. This risk mitigation tool then helps them create more stable supply chains that can be more resilient to rapidly changing economic, legal, and sustainability environments; respond better to consumer, stakeholder, and regulatory expectations; and – most importantly – ensure respect for Workers’ rights and wellbeing.
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 Workers’ rights.
We believe the essential first step to achieving good labour conditions for Workers everywhere is acknowledging that forced labour and other human rights impacts may be much closer than previously believed: while upstream supply chains have long been the focus of many due diligence approaches, our own operations have often been the focus of less action. This means they can remain at a high risk for forced labour.
Our Coalition members are therefore committed to ensuring their own operations are covered by robust HRDD practices. To start, members are focusing on priority interventions by establishing and deploying a Maturity Journey Framework for forced labour-focused HRDD systems in 100% of their high-risk own operations by 2025.*
As part of the pilot phase of this project, members have identified operations in more than 20 countries in which Workers are at a higher risk for forced labour, including warehousing, distribution, manufacturing, and transportation (as of early 2023). Contributing risk factors include the presence of third-party and outsourced labour (e.g. subcontracted Workers), the employment of vulnerable groups (e.g. migrant Workers), and wider socioeconomic and cultural conditions that can enable forced labour.
Members are now working with their country- and operational-level teams in these priority areas, along with other stakeholders such as our project partner, the Fair Labor Association, to host awareness-raising and capacity-building trainings that educate and empower their teams to recognise forced labour risks and practically implement due diligence.
*New Coalition members commit to achieving, by 2025, coverage in their high-risk operations that is proportional to the time when they join the Coalition.
A key part of conducting due diligence is raising awareness of and understanding human rights risks. In our #CloserThanYouThink series, we explain key facts about forced labour in easy-to-access videos.
We recognise that the protection of human rights through strong policy frameworks is a critical tool enabling and accelerating our work on human rights due diligence. Not only do these strong frameworks support, drive, and enable corporate action, but they also contribute to greater social protection for vulnerable groups, which can ultimately help address the systemic drivers of the forced labour challenge.
Mandatory human rights due diligence (mHRDD) frameworks and regulations are increasingly coming into force across the world, with relevant legislation in place in several countries including Australia, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, France, and Germany (as of early 2023).
With the increasing prevalence in mHRDD, it can be challenging for companies to best understand how to navigate mHRDD requirements. Some companies have yet to establish due diligence systems or have just started this work, and therefore struggle to address social impacts in their businesses and comply with new regulations. Other companies, though perhaps with more mature due diligence approaches, may find it difficult to align their existing systems with the requirements of mHRDD.
With our Maturity Journey Framework for forced-labour focused HRDD, as well as a space to share best practices, address common challenges, and co-create solutions among industry peers and experts, our Coalition offers important space to guide companies on how to best implement a due diligence approach.
Members also lend their voices to the growing conversation around ending forced labour by supporting transparency and disclosure efforts which acknowledge the risk of forced labour practices within the consumer goods industry, and especially in their own operations. Collectively, members work together to activate pre-competitive practices, such as shaping roundtable discussions, developing open source materials and recognising credible fair labour providers worldwide, to elevate the dialogue on forced labour and support those who employ ethical labour standards.