A $23 million (€18.6 million) venture fund to tackle forced labor in large corporations launched on Tuesday, backed by big-name brands including Apple, Disney, C&A and Walmart.
Humanity United, a foundation established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, partnered with several corporations to create the fund, called Working Capital.
The UK's Department for International Development contributed £2.5 million ($3.5 million, €2.9 million) to the fund as well in so-called "sidecar" grants.
Working Capital will be used to support tech startups that are testing ways to make supply chains more transparent for businesses and consumers.
The fund has already invested in a company called Provenance that uses blockchain tools to help track materials and products during each step of the production process.
Ulula, another company the fund has already invested in, uses data analytics in an attempt to communicate with workers and give them an anonymous way to report poor working conditions.
'Market demand' for fighting forced labor
Regulatory and consumer backlash over forced labor and child labor has increasingly put companies under pressure to eradicate modern slavery from their supply chains.
"There is a growing market demand for more transparent and responsible corporate supply chains," Ed Marcum, managing director at Working Capital, said in a statement.
"We see an opportunity to invest in emerging solutions that will meet the demands of large multinational corporations while also benefiting millions of vulnerable workers," he added.
At least 25 million people worldwide were estimated to be trapped in forced labor in 2016, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the rights group Walk Free Foundation.
Published on DW on January 30, 2018
By Meggie Weiler
Although the United States abolished slavery with the ratification of the 13th Amendment over 150 years ago, there are still an estimated 24.9 million slaves living around the world today. To raise awareness of this crime and its prevalence in our modern world, January was named National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month.
The United States continues to be both a source and destination country for human trafficking victims. According to the Polaris Project, as of June 2017, the national human trafficking hotline had received 13,897 calls that year, which is expected to double when final stats are reported in early 2018. These calls represent reports of potential trafficking cases or come directly from people seeking help.
While many people continue to think of human trafficking as a third-world problem, the numbers paint a very different picture, with 2,105 of the 7,621 human trafficking cases recorded in 2016 involving U.S. citizens.
Over the past 18 years, the United States has taken numerous actions to help combat human trafficking both domestically and internationally. In 2000, Congress enacted the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) which built a better system of laws to combat trafficking. In 2015 Congress also passed the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act, meant to expand the capacity of the U.S. government to help survivors of human trafficking. It has also banned goods made with forced labor from entering the U.S. market and worked to stop the use of forced labor by companies that hold government contracts effective at combating human trafficking.
In 2018, as we honor National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention month, we should keep this progress in mind while continuing to improve policies to combat modern slavery worldwide.
In the coming year Congress should:
Reauthorize the Trafficking Victims Protection Act: Last authorized in 2013, this landmark legislation expired in September 2017. A number of strong legislative vehicles reauthorizing TVPA moved through the House and Senate last year, but are still awaiting passage through both chambers. These bills reauthorize the most critical anti-trafficking laws and go a step further, including a critical provision adding human trafficking specialists to U.S. Attorney’s offices throughout the country who will help to gain justice for victims and hold perpetrators accountable.
Last year, according to the State Department, there were only 439 trafficking convictions in the United States. This is a partially a result of the complexity of human trafficking cases and a lack of the governmental collaboration needed to successfully tackle them. Many prosecutors lack the time or resources to take on these complicated cases. Adding a designated prosecutor would bring the capacity to increase collaboration between federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement and victim service providers to help identify and undertake these complex cases, leading to more prosecutions for trafficking crimes.
Robust enforcement of the ban on goods made with forced labor: By amending Section 307 of the Tariff Act in 2016, Congress removed a longstanding loophole that prevented the strong enforcement of a ban on the import of goods made with forced labor into the United States. To enforce this ban, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) needs to initiate robust investigations into the use of forced labor. As of now, it is estimated that the United States imports $142 billion worth of goods made with forced labor annually. Congress should continue to press CBP to act with urgency to identify and stop shipments made with forced labor.
Modern slavery touches each of our lives through the clothing we wear, the electronics we use, and the prevalence of the practice in communities across the country. This year, it is the responsibility of each of us not to turn a blind eye to this crime. The United States must continue to improve policies and laws to ensure that all of us are not complicit in supporting markets for slavery.
Published on Human Rights First on January 11, 2018
"Confronting root causes: forced labour in global supply chains": A New Report From Beyond Trafficking And Slavery
By Patrick Hatch
Some of Australia's major retailers are woefully unprepared for new laws likely to be brought before parliament that will force them to show how they ensure their products are not made with slave labour.
A joint federal parliament committee last month called on the government to introduce a Modern Slavery Act, including mandatory supply chain reporting for large companies.
The committee's chair, Liberal MP for Dunkley Chris Crewther, said he was "quite confident" legislation would be introduced to parliament in 2018, and warned that some companies were not doing enough to vet how their goods were made.
The committee recommended that businesses with annual revenue of more than $50 million should have to disclose where their products come from and detail what steps they took to ensure slavery and labour abuse did not existing in their supply chains.
A list of companies that have to report and which ones complied would be made public, and after two years the government would start to name and shame companies that failed to report.
The committee called for financial penalties for businesses that did not comply, and for companies that failed to act on evidence of exploitation.
“I do realise that for larger companies, if the penalty is $100 or $1000 or $10,000 it may not be a disincentive in and of itself, [but] if that is public knowledge that’s not a good look for a large company trying to build a public image," Mr Crewther said.
Over 40 million people around the world are today estimated to be victims of "modern slavery", including forced labour, bonded labour, and human trafficking.
'Down the rabbit hole'Retailers - already under pressure about "sweat shops" since more than 1110 people were killed in the Rana Plaza factory collapsed in Bangladesh in 2013 - would be significantly affected by the proposed rules, according to Australian Retailers Association chairman Russel Zimmerman.
He said the peak body would push for "light touch" regulation that would allow retailers to simply ask their suppliers or the immediate next point along their own supply chains to guarantee their products are clean.
“You shouldn't need to keep going down the rabbit hole," Mr Zimmerman said.
“We don’t want these regulations to make retailers go to the shirt manufacturer, to the cotton manufacturer, to the button manufacturer, to the supplier of the material, to whoever else it may be."
Carolyn Kitto, a director at anti-slavery group Stop The Traffik, said that many large companies' existing transparency initiatives would already fulfil what would be required of them under the reporting laws.
The group has spent more than four years lobbying fashion retailers to disclose their plans and polices to mitigate labour abuse in their products.
While some businesses have been responsive, others have refused and resorted to legal threats against Stop The Traffik.
“They’ve got some catching up to do,” Ms Kitto said.
She said while some businesses were concerned about the cost of complying, "there’s going to be way more of a cost if you don’t do the right thing and human slavery is found in your supply chain".
Mr Zimmerman said there would be positives from mandatory reporting, including stores being able to promote the fact their products were ethically sourced.
Mr Crewther said he wanted to see voluntary reporting for companies under the threshold for businesses that wanted to trumpet their ethical credentials.
He said the laws would create a more even playing field by ensuring business were not using worker abuse and slavery to undercut competitors on price.
The proposed new laws borrow heavily from Britain's Modern Slavery Act introduced in 2015, which has been criticised as a toothless tiger because there are no penalties for failing to report.
“If most of our recommendations are adopted I think we’ll be world-leading in this area," Mr Crewther said.
The parliamentary committee heard of abuses taking part in industries in the Asia Pacific region including garment manufacturing, palm oil cultivation, and on finishing ships.
Published on the Sydney Morning Herald on January 1, 2018.
A new report published in November 2017 by the Clean Clothes Campaign, Europe's Sweatshops, documents endemic poverty wages and other stark working conditions in the garment and shoe industry throughout Eastern and South-Eastern Europe. Despite working overtime, many workers in the Ukraine for example make just EUR 89 a month, where a living wage would have to be five times that much. Among customers of the factories are fashion brands like Benetton, Esprit, GEOX, Triumph and Vera Moda.
For the global fashion brands, the countries in East and South-East Europe are a low wage paradise. Many brands even tout the fact they are “Made in Europe”, suggesting this means 'fair' conditions. In reality, many of the 1.7 million garment workers in the region live in poverty, face perilous work conditions, including forced overtime, and have accumulated significant debts.
These European sweatshops offer cheap, yet experienced and qualified workers. Far too often the monthly wages earned by the mostly women workforce only just meet the legal minimum monthly wages, which vary between 89 EUR in the Ukraine to 374 EUR in Slovakia. An actual living wage, so that a family could pay for basic needs, would need to be about four to five times higher. For instance, this would mean earning around 438 EUR a month in the Ukraine.
The legal minimum wages in the region are actually below the respective official poverty lines and subsistence levels for these countries. The consequences are brutal. “Sometimes, we simply have nothing to eat”, said a woman working in a garment factory in Ukraine. Another worker in Hungary stated, “Our wages are just enough to pay for energy, water and heating bills”.
Interviews with 110 workers in both shoe and garment factories in Hungary, Serbia and Ukraine revealed that many are forced to work overtime just to reach their production targets. Yet even doing this, they hardly make more than the legal minimum wage.
Many of the workers interviewed reported perilous working conditions such as exposure to heat and toxic chemicals, unhygienic conditions, unpaid and illegal forced overtime, and abusive treatment by management. Workers report feeling intimidated, and being under constant threat of termination or relocation.
“When Serbian workers ask why in the heat of summer there is no air-conditioning, why access to drinking water is limited, why they have to work again on a Saturday, the answer is always the same: 'There's the door'.”
It is clear that major international fashion brands are profiting substantially from this low wage system. The factories featured in the report produced for many global brands like Benetton, Esprit, GEOX, Triumph and Vera Moda, amongst others.
The Clean Clothes Campaign calls upon these brands to start paying a living wage, and to work together with their suppliers to eradicate the illegal and inhumane working conditions.
Published on The Clean Clothes Campaign
Christopher Knaus and Ben Doherty
The Australian government should introduce a modern slavery act, establish an anti-slavery commissioner, create a compensation scheme for victims and force big corporations to root out exploitation in their supply chains, an inquiry has found.
The inquiry into modern slavery in Australia delivered its final report on Thursday evening, providing a detailed blueprint for the creation of a modern slavery act in Australia.
Action on modern slavery has been spurred by a string of controversies, from the exploitation of migrant fruit pickers, Australian involvement in damaging orphanage tourism and the exploitation of cleaners.
The latest estimates suggest 40 million people around the world and 4,300 people in Australia are victims of modern slavery, including through human trafficking, debt bondage, forced labour and other slavery-like practices.
Crucially, the inquiry’s report, titled “Hidden in Plain Sight”, has called for the creation of an independent anti-slavery commissioner, mirroring a successful model in the UK.
The inquiry also wants to force big corporations with a revenue of $50m or more to prove they are not profiting or gaining a competitive advantage from slavery in their supply chains.
The recommended threshold is well below the $100m previously proposed by government, and would capture most large entities in Australia, the inquiry said.
It would force companies like Woolworths and Coles, for example, to show slavery is not occurring among its suppliers.
The inquiry also recommended vulnerable migrant workers should be better protected through changes to Australia’s visa system, while a community hotline should be created to report modern slavery and a national labour hire licensing scheme established.
The inquiry also called for measures to stamp out Australian support for orphanage tourism, which exploits fake orphans for profit from tourists, often putting them at significant risk of harm.
Orphanage tourism should be included in the definition of modern slavery and the Australian government has been urged to ensure foreign aid does not go to overseas orphanages.
The inquiry also called for aid funding to be diverted to keeping families together and caring for children through community-based care, rather than institutions.
The recommendations have been praised by leading orphanage tourism expert, Kate Van Doore, of Griffith University, who said it put Australia at the forefront of efforts tackle exploitation.
“These recommendations pave the way for Australia to continue to lead the world in combatting orphanage trafficking,” Van Doore told Guardian Australia. “They represent a huge step for child protection advocates who have worked tirelessly to have orphanage trafficking recognised in law.”
The inquiry also recommended a compensation scheme for victims of modern slavery in Australia should also be created, the inquiry said, which would be funded through proceeds of crime. The government should also give victims the right to sue for modern slavery.
The foreign affairs and aid sub-committee chair, Chris Crewther, described modern slavery as a “heinous” crime that must be stamped out.
“Modern slavery describes some of the greatest crimes of our time,” Crewther said. “The recommendations from this inquiry make a significant contribution to ensuring that, here in Australia, we are doing all we can to eradicate these crimes.”
The inquiry has also recommended further research on modern slavery be conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology and that defences be introduced to protect victims of modern slavery offences who are compelled to commit a crime.
The government released a plan in August to make large companies file annual reports on modern slavery.
Published on The Guardian on December 7, 2017
By Isobel Archer, Shiva Foundation
Following the implementation of legislation such as the UK Modern Slavery Act (2015) and California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (2010), modern slavery has come to the forefront of the minds of senior executives in business. With an ever increasing number of governments (Australia, Hong Kong, France, Netherlands) facing calls for new laws on corporate responsibility to combat modern slavery from the top down, the onus at last seems to be on businesses to step up and take responsibility for tackling this hidden crime. Some sectors now face scrutiny en masse, with the garment, food, electronics and construction industries being just a few of those perceived to be particularly at risk for labour exploitation.
Whilst the hotel sector has so far been spared scandal on the scale of the exposes that have dominated headlines on these industries, the complex nature of our global supply chains means that exploitation is likely to be tainting the goods and services used by hotels and their consumers everyday. So why wait until exploitation is found before taking action to prevent it happening in the first place?
A pro-active and preventative attitude is what spurred on a group of UK-based hoteliers, procurement experts and anti-slavery experts to meet and discuss steps they could take to eradicate slavery risk from their businesses before it could become a problem. Meeting in November 2016, the group identified three main risk areas for modern slavery in the hotel industry: hotel use, use of labour providers and exploitation hidden further down the supply chain in the manufacture of the countless goods that are grown, processed and shipped from source countries to UK hotels all over the world. The Stop Slavery Hotel Industry Network was officially launched by Meenal Sachdev, Director and Founder of Shiva Foundation, at the 2016 Thomson Reuters Foundation Trust Conference. Founding members include, among others, Shiva Hotels, Hilton and Bespoke Hotels. Since starting, membership has grown to include others across the UK. The group of dedicated businesses meet quarterly to lay out and work towards collective goals that the Network can take to tackle modern slavery risk within the UK hotel industry.
For the UK hotel sector, the franchise-brand model of management and ownership is a key challenge to multi-stakeholder dialogue. Many hotels operate as part of a chain or franchise consortium where they share brands, marketing, management and architectural design with a number of other companies, meaning the business model can be multi-layered with a number of stakeholders involved in decision making. A consistent HR policy across all hotels and employees across a portfolio is one way to counter this: this is where the Network comes in. We enable and encourage stakeholders to share good practice and industry experience, facilitating dialogue between these different actors. The Network provides a space where we can foster constructive communication on how to implement coherent anti-trafficking policies within what can feel like a fragmented business model. Our initial goals are simple:
In our first year we’re already making good progress on meeting those goals. To mark 2017 World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (30 July), the Network launched its website (stopslaverynetwork.org.uk) dedicated to communicating publicly its goals and mission to industry actors, other sectors, civil society and business. The website outlines the problem of modern slavery both globally and in the UK, and demonstrates how the hotel industry in particular is uniquely affected by modern slavery and human trafficking. We are also proud to have launched an industry-specific resource hub on the site featuring publications from government, civil society and business designed to provide a starting point for other stakeholders in the industry to design and implement their own anti-slavery business initiatives. The hub currently features over 100 resources from over 35 organisations, and has received support and endorsement from the British Hospitality Association, the International Tourism Partnership and COMBAT whose resources are amongst those featured on the hub.
As we look ahead to the third and fourth meetings of our first year, the Network hopes to publish a set of industry-specific guidance on how to ensure supply chain transparency across UK hotels. Using existing guidance, we are pooling the experience of our members to produce a good practice framework for hotel businesses who want to start their own anti-slavery initiatives and join the wider business community in tackling modern slavery. Our ethos and mission are simple: using what we know and who we know to combat this horrific crime wherever it could be occurring across hotels across the UK.
Published on Walk Free Foundation on November 9, 2017
Millions of domestic workers in Asia who are at risk of abuse and slavery have no legal recognition, the United Nations labor agency has warned, urging reforms at a meeting on Wednesday to protect the world’s “largest invisible workforce”.
From nannies to cleaners, Asia Pacific has one of the largest shares of the world’s 67 million domestic workers, most of them women from impoverished families in countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) voiced concerns that more than 60 percent of domestic workers in Asia are denied any protection as most countries do not see them as formal workers.
The issue was under the spotlight as officials from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathered in the Philippines on Wednesday for a two-day meeting to discuss “decent work” for domestic workers.
“It is time for all employers of domestic workers to recognize that domestic workers are neither servants nor ‘members of the family’, but workers that should have the same rights as other workers,” ILO’s Asia-Pacific head Tomoko Nishimoto said in a statement.
A lack of recognition means domestic workers are not covered under protections such as social security or the minimum wage.
Working excessive hours, being underpaid and trapped in debt bondage are common in domestic work, the top sector where forced labor exploitation has been found.
Of the world’s estimated 40.3 million victims of modern slavery last year, about 25 million were in forced labor.
Anna Engblom, an ILO expert, said the fact domestic helpers work in isolation made their situation more vulnerable. She said legal recognition would be key to tackle slavery.
“If you work in a factory, you have other workers who face the similar situation. Here it is just one worker,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Lita Anggraini from the Indonesia’s National Network for Domestic Workers Advocacy said progress had been slow in the region, with domestic workers having nowhere to seek redress in cases of abuse.
“The Philippines is the only country in ASEAN which has ratified a U.N. convention to recognize domestic workers’ rights. We have been pushing for recognition in Indonesia for 13 years and we are still waiting,” she said.
Published on Reuters on October 25, 2017
Brazil: Justice Rosa Weber suspends controversial slavery decree that would put fight against slave labour at risk
Justice Rosa Weber of the Federal Supreme Court suspended on on October 24 the decree that jeopardized the fight against slave labour and had been published by the Ministry of Labour on 16 October. The decree has been harshly criticized by officials and civil society. “Campaigners, commentators and prosecutors said the move was a "social regression" aimed at buying the support of a powerful agribusiness lobby ahead of a crucial vote in congress that could cost President Michel Temer his mandate” (The Guardian). To know more about the decree and the concerns about it, see here.
Published on BHRC on October 24, 2017.
By Kieran Guilbert
More and better data is needed to track progress in the global drive to eradicate modern slavery and human trafficking as many victims - including people trafficked for their organs and child soldiers - are going uncounted, leading anti-slavery groups say.
About 40 million people were trapped as slaves last year - mostly women and girls - in forced labor and forced marriages, according to the first joint effort by key rights groups to count the number of victims worldwide, published last month.
The U.N.’s International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Walk Free Foundation collaborated on the estimate - which they said was very conservative - having previously used different data, definitions and methodologies to reach separate figures.
The groups last week published the methodology, a month after the estimate was released, referring to limitations and gaps in the data, such as the omission of child soldiers and a lack of surveys for conflict-hit countries and the Gulf region.
But critics say the estimate cannot be used to guide governments, shape specific interventions or monitor successes or setbacks in the world’s fight to end slavery by 2030 - one of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in 2015.
“While the estimate may be useful for advocacy purposes, it is not evidence,” said lawyer and slavery expert Anne Gallagher.
“There is currently no way to use this information in a manner that would allow us to know that what we are doing is making a difference,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The ILO and Walk Free said they shared the frustration of the anti-slavery movement about the fact the estimate cannot be compared with previous figures, and that the data is not comprehensive enough to track progress in tackling the crime.
“But we have developed a method which is sustainable, and allows us to build more and more reliable estimates year-on-year,” said ILO senior statistician, Michaelle De Cock. “Once we have more and better data, we’ll be able to measure trends.”
Among the estimated 40.3 million people living as slaves last year, 24.9 million were forced to work in factories, on building sites, farms and fishing boats, and as domestic or sex workers, while 15.4 million were trapped in forced marriages.
This compares with Walk Free’s 2016 number of 45.8 million slaves, and an ILO figure of 21 million held in forced labor.
Academics have questioned the new figure, saying it may be a compromise between the two groups, and could muddle efforts to tackle slavery and divide the anti-slavery movement, given the explicit inclusion of forced marriage for the first time.
Yet the ILO and Walk Free said they had made great strides in recent years in collecting more data and building upon previous methodologies, and that the new estimate would better inform anti-slavery actors of the true nature of the crime.
The groups conducted surveys in 48 countries and interviewed about 71,000 people - up from 25 nations and 42,000 respondents in Walk Free’s 2016 figure - with findings supplemented by data from the U.N.’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).
“This is a global estimate with important global findings, such as the fact more women than men are victims,” said Fiona David, executive director of global research at Walk Free.
Almost three in every four slaves were women and girls and one in four was a child, with modern slavery most prevalent in Africa followed by Asia and Pacific, according to the estimate.
“The estimate wasn’t intended to enable a certain country to set up a precise action plan to combat slavery,” David added.
The methodology pointed to several limitations of the data, such as the difficulty of recording cases of forced sexual exploitation, measuring all forms of human trafficking, and carrying out surveys in Central Asia and the Gulf region.
“We need more data on the Middle East,” said Nick Grono of the Freedom Fund, an international initiative to fight slavery.
“As you know, you cannot simply walk into a labor camp in Qatar and start conducting interviews with migrant workers. It is a fast way to get deported,” added Grono, Freedom Fund’s CEO.
The ILO and Walk Free said they would like to see victims of all forms of human trafficking, from drug to organ trafficking, included in future estimates, as well as children enslaved and sent into war, as better data becomes more readily available.
Yet this will require more money pumped into the drive to end slavery, and a wider range of data collection methods, said Kevin Bales, professor of contemporary slavery at Britain’s University of Nottingham and a member of Walk Free’s data team.
And seeking out data on the lucrative, ever-evolving and largely hidden crime of modern slavery also raises many ethical questions, and is often fraught with danger, activists say.
“It is very, very tough to get information on the commercial sexual exploitation of children,” said David of Walk Free.
“What do you do when you find a victim while doing research? You can’t just leave them there and continue doing your survey.”
Published on Reuters on October 23, 2017.