Labour Practices Learn how to correctly analyse this topic.

Sarah Simon

12 min Read Time | November 26th 2021

Key takeaways

1

Unfortunately, some companies take advantage of slave and/or child labour. A company can directly or indirectly (through their suppliers) be partaking in forced labour.

2

In your analysis, add how many people work for the company (if possible) or add the number of suppliers the company has, and provide data about their working conditions. In other words, how many people and in what ways are the workers' basic rights being violated?

3

If the company’s suppliers indulge in forced labour, disclose as much information about their business ties.

Are they the company’s main suppliers? How many products does the company source from them? How close and dependent are their relationships? How much is the company indirectly responsible for by funding these suppliers (out of the total)?

Executive Summary

Forced labour and detrimental working conditions violate human rights and can seriously affect workers' physical and mental health, and overall wellbeing.

To quantify the impact, include data on how many people are trapped in forced labour in the company’s supply chain, describe the conditions they endure, and what basic rights and labour standards are being violated. 

As it is not always possible to quantify the number of workers suffering from exploitation, the analysis can show significant impact by demonstrating how strong the business ties are between a company and its suppliers involved in forced labour.

To fully assess the impact, consider its depth, breadth and persistence. This touches upon the number of rights violated, what rights, where these violations are occurring, for how long, etc.

What is it?

Forced labour is described as work performed involuntarily under the use of force, fraud, or any coercive means. During the recruitment process, workers might be deceived about working conditions and influenced to take on an exploitative job, or they might fall prey to debt or paper bondage, where employers illegally withhold workers’ documents or set unpayable recruiting fees. Abusive practices like threats of harm, force, and others might also be established to intimidate workers from leaving.

In some cases, labourers might be unwillingly separated from their families, held captive and under constant surveillance in working camps, and enforced to endure precarious, abusive, or unsafe working conditions for years.

Children worldwide are classified as child labourers when they are either too young to work or are involved in hazardous activities that may compromise their physical, mental, social or educational development. In the least developed countries, slightly more than one in four children (ages 5 to 17) are engaged in labour that is considered detrimental to their health and development.”

Currently, around 25 million adults and 152 million children are in forced and child labour, respectively. Their work in dire conditions adds significant value to goods manufactured and shipped worldwide in global supply chains. Only in the private sector, forced labor generates an estimated $150 billion US dollars in illegal profits every year. Aside from eroding a country's revenues and social wellbeing, forced labour is a fundamental violation of human rights.

KnowTheChain evaluated the 49 largest ICT companies globally on their initiatives to address forced labour and human trafficking in their supply chains. The results were straightforward. The majority of companies scored poorly, with more than three-quarters scoring less than 50%, and with an average score of 30%.

Sources

https://collections.unu.edu/eserv/UNU:3293/JRF01_ForcedLabour.pdf

https://mneguidelines.oecd.org/Ending-child-labour-forced-labour-and-human-trafficking-in-global-supply-chains.pdf

https://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/newsroom/news/WCMS_243201/lang--en/index.htm

https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/en/human-rights-act/article-4-freedom-slavery-and-forced-labour

http://www.ilo.ch/global/topics/forced-labour/definition/lang--en/index.htm

https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/child-labour/

https://knowthechain.org/wp-content/uploads/2020-KTC-ICT-Benchmark-Report-1.pdf

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SDG Choice

Impact assessment

In your analysis, examine the company’s treatment of employees and suppliers. To quantify the impact, include data on how many people are trapped in forced labour in the company’s supply chain, describe the conditions they endure, and what basic rights and labour standards are being violated. Consider how the workers’ health, socioeconomic status and overall well-being are being compromised.

You may use studies as proxies to report the impact and use the IMP framework to describe the what, how much, and who.

Introduction

The introduction should describe the broader impact issue to set the stage for the reader.

Provide enough context information about the social impacts of forced labour and give the reader a general panorama of forced labour worldwide.

If needed, the introduction could also treat pervasive labour practices in the company’s specific industry or a specific country. What is the global/industry scale of the problem? Why is forced labour detrimental?

Core Analysis

Include:

  • The number of people in the company’s supply chain that are under forced labour or dire working conditions.
For example: The company has 100,000 employees, but it is estimated/documented to have 1,000 forced labourers
  • If a company’s supplier(s) has forced labourers, clearly define how strong and dependent is the company’s and its supplier’s business tie:
    • Is it a/are they the main suppliers?
    • How many products/services is the company sourcing from this supplier?
    • By how much is the company funding this supplier?
    • How reliant are the company’s operations on this supplier?

Caution: Please note that analyses could only be considered when there are significant and close ties between a company and a supplier profiting from forced labour. Otherwise, the impact is deemed peripheral to the company’s activities.

For example: a company buys 1.5 million tonnes of palm oil. It has four suppliers, two of which are known to indulge in child labour since 2015. These suppliers provide 55% (825,000 t) of the company’s total palm oil consumption.


Helpful tip: Using ranking systems like KnowtheChain can often help understand where a company stands amongst this large issue and how it compares with its competitors.

  • Describe the conditions on which workers are kept. Have there been any violations of human rights? Are working conditions safe? Have there been any casualties/hospitalizations related to abusive working conditions?
  • For how long have the events taken place? Is there a significant track record? Had the company pledged to end its ties with this supplier and failed to do so?

Including various sources in your research, as well as being critical of the information presented by the company and third parties will help you add nuance to your analysis.

Conclusion

Decide if the company’s impact has been positive or negative, and give the reader a succinct summary of the scale and persistence of the matter. In general, no new information should be presented to the reader.



Make sure to describe the scale of the impact by taking into account:

1/ The breadth of the impact

  • Is the impact local, national, or global?

  • How many people are concerned? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands?

2/ The depth of the impact

  • Is the life of people concerned deeply affected, or does the issue just marginally impact them?

  • Are the changes brought by the issue profoundly changing society or the planet?

3/ The persistence of the impact

  • How long would the impact described last for? Months? Years? Decades?

  • How reversible is the impact described in the impact analysis? Can it be easily stopped/extended?


Context:

As of 2021, globally 40.3 million (Mn) people are involved in modern slavery of which nearly 24.9 Mn work as forced labourers. Modern slavery is a contradiction of human rights as it strips a person’s freedom of control and decision-making to work through threats and violence.

While modern slavery has boomed within the supply chains of global companies, the footwear and apparel industry relies the most on forced labour.

Activities:

Yue Yuen ranks 38th of 43 companies that lack disclosure of policies and practices on forced labour. It majorly imports leather from Minerva S.A., a Brazil-based livestock company tainted with child labour and forced labour in its activities.

Outputs, outcomes, and impact:

In recent years more than 12 cases have been recorded where slaughterhouses of Minerva, along with beef producers like JBS, have been involved in extreme labour abuses. In Paraguay’s Chaco region, Minerva’s 5 slaughterhouses are linked with child labour, slave labour, and indigenous labour exploitation.

In Brazil where it owns 10 slaughterhouses, workers in beef farms (supplying Minerva and JBS) were treated as slaves without electricity, toilets, and water. Thus far, 32% of slave worker rescues have happened from Brazil’s cattle farms.


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