Latest thinking on ending modern slavery and child labour

A young palm oil plantation labourer ©ILO-Asrian Mirza

The UN’s Global Compact is sharing a promotional booklet 'Business: It's Time To Act' on the need to act now to combat modern slavery and child labour.

We work closely with the Global Compact, which is the UN’s leadership platform for the development, implementation and disclosure of responsible corporate practices.

ETI's next 'Modern Slavery Act: Is Your Business Ready' training courses take place in June in Manchester and in October in Birmingham.

The Compact is the largest corporate sustainability initiative in the world with more than 9,500 corporate members and 3,000 non-business signatories based in 160 countries.

As such, it's important. As is its advice.

Realising decent work

Signatories to the Compact agree to work towards realising ‘Decent Work and Economic Growth’ under Goal 8 of the world’s Sustainable Development Goals.

They also accept that businesses everywhere, regardless of size or sector, have a responsibility to respect human rights as outlined within the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

This latest leaflet (into which we and Verité have had input) summarises the most recent advice and thinking on ending modern slavery and child labour.

This is a promotional leaflet so it is necessarily top line.

Nonetheless, its advice is useful as a pointer for ethical and CSR managers on how to ensure company action.

That’s because it lists five steps to eliminate modern slavery and three to end child labour.

And gives a clear business case for both.

Five steps to help eliminate modern slavery

  1. Get commitment and resources. You not only must have the ear of boards and senior executives but colleagues and commercial partners too. Effectively, the Global Compact is asking you to be evangelical in your approach backed up with sound business reasons.
  2. Assess actual and potential labour rights risks. You absolutely need to know your supply chains inside out and most importantly, engage and collaborate.
  3. Identify corporate leverage, responsibility and actions. That means being very clear about the scale and scope of your direct and indirect responsibilities, and thinking seriously about purchasing practices and sourcing strategies as well as recruitment methods [Editor: here’s a useful blog on how ETI member Princes is working on best practice in recruitment]. It also means benchmarking, reviewing and entering partnerships that increase leverage for change.
  4. Remedy, mitigate and prevent harm to workers. That’s the ‘do as you would be done by’ clause and means treating workers as people with rights that need to be safeguarded. It also means respecting and building relationships with trade unions and independent worker representatives, who can act to pre-empt labour rights violations.
  5. Report, monitor, review and improve. As we wrote in a recent blog on the importance of ending the exploitation of women in supply chains, without data and sharing, it is not possible to influence more widely, make evidence-based decisions and ensure change happens.

Three steps to end child labour

  1. Monitor risks – and verify young workers' ages and national laws.
  2. Be very clear on your expectations with commercial partners.
  3. Ensure all forms of hazardous child labour and night work is banned.

And here’s ETI’s addendum on child labour.

Our members know that addressing child labour is essential for the credibility and legitimacy of a business in the eyes of its stakeholders … consumers, shareholders and staff.

That’s why we advise that companies follow our Base Code Guidance on Child Labour. It offers various tips on challenges such as verifying a young worker’s age and assessing the situation of children found “helping their parents” or working on a family farm that produces a commercial crop.

It also contains advice on promoting good practice to ensure that a child’s best interests are a primary consideration in actions affecting them. Very importantly, it shows how to promote respect for a range of workers’ rights that are likely to have the effect of discouraging child labour.

Goal 8 of the SDGs is ambitious

As the Compact leaflet concludes, Goal 8 of the SDGs is ambitious.

The leaflet also recognises that there are no quick fixes and that coordination and coherent sustainable solutions are vital. And it advises who the experts are that can help your business. We're in there.

Our advice? Download, read and act.

It’s time.

Download, Business: It’s Time to Act

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