The international supply chain is a complex system that requires businesses’ increased attention and transparency due to the prevalence of human rights issues, from child labor and forced labor to human trafficking. This was the topic of our most recent webinar presented in conjunction with the Department of Labor.
Eric Biel, Associate Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs, and Rachel Phillips Rigby, the Deputy Division Chief for Research and Policy for the Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, presented on these issues and highlighted some resources companies can use to ensure their business operations are free of any detrimental labor practices. The U.S. Department of Labor works with non-profits and governments to identify child labor, and to remove the children from servitude and prevent other children from falling to this fate. In addition, they produce reports that catalog findings on the worst forms of child labor around the world, and a list of goods produced by child labor. Their latest report identified 215 million children engaged in child labor and 21 million people in forced labor. These reports are designed to help companies alert themselves to potential issues within their own supply chain.
Another resource provided by the Department of Labor is the Toolkit for Social Compliance Systems. The eight-step process is designed to identify and correct labor issues:
- Engage stakeholders and partners - Value the importance of getting external entities involved in your social compliance system.
- Assess risks and impacts - Understand supply chain mapping as a critical step in assessing risks and impacts of labor abuse.
- Develop code of conduct - Become familiar with industry or cross-sector codes that may be relevant to you.
- Communicate and train across supply chain - Learn about appropriate communication channels and training formats for different audiences.
- Monitor compliance - Be familiar with the components and flow of a typical audit.
- Remediate violations - Learn about specific actions you can take to correct child labor and forced labor violations and prevent them from recurring.
- Independent review – Study the difference between auditing and independent review, and understand the importance of independent review as a critical step in the social compliance process.
- Report performance - Understand the reasons for reporting publicly on your social compliance program, and the benefits for your company.
By following these steps, businesses can help ensure that their supply chains are free of labor issues through due diligence and then remediation of the issues. The Department of Labor recognizes and appreciates the complexity surrounding this issue and hopes to optimize the relationship with corporations by providing relevant and helpful resources to corporate practitioners.
To learn more about the resources presented in the webinar please visit the Department of Labor’s website here.