As much as we’d love to live in a world where slavery is abolished for good and human rights are respected around the world, we are not there yet. From our own front yard to Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, from mines to factories to sweatshops, modern-day slavery is a brutal truth and the most elementary human rights keep being violated with impunity. Here are a few of the many human rights violations that are occurring right now around the globe.
- 40 million slaves across the world, most of them aged 18 to 24
- 152 million children aged 5 to 17 in forced labor
- In Brazil, Kenya, Mexico, children under 15 represent 25-30% of total labor-force in farms producing cocoa, coffee, cotton, rubber, tea, and tobacco.
- 5 million children work in hazardous conditions
- In India and Madagascar, women and children risk their lives to mine mica, a much-needed mineral in a wide range of industries.
- Unscrupulous employers impose long work hours, unsanitary work conditions, extremely low wages to manufacture apparel, footwear, electronics, toys, etc.
- European banks have heavily invested in palm oil plantations in the DRC where health and labor rights are increasingly trampled.
Human Rights Violations
- Detention camps force detainees to work in dangerous and exhausting conditions, employing torture on those who attempt to alert the rest of the world.
- ‘Labor transfer’ schemes have become rampant throughout Asia, where people are forcibly taken from certain regions and dispersed to factories across the continent. Many companies are unknowingly using this forced labor in their supply chains. Learn more about this in a case study on Xinjiang, China.
As of today, despite growing awareness and some legislation in place, there is still a need to strengthen regulations and enforce corporate due diligence. Many companies take it upon themselves to implement internal policies. However, without any legislative framework, other businesses tend to regard corporate responsibility as a nice-to-have, until their name makes the headlines and causes costly damages to their reputation. However, the EU has stepped in and proposed a mandatory human rights policy. Let’s take a look at what it means for businesses around the world whether it passes or not.
The Proposed Mandatory European Policy on Human Rights
The COVID-19 crisis has forced European countries to face the harsh reality that they are extremely dependent and reliant on global supply chains. News of medical personnel cruelly lacking gear and equipment to face the flood of affected patients has inundated the news outlets and social media channels. During shelter in place, businesses have had to close, hereby unable to honor outstanding invoices for previous orders. As a consequence, suppliers have suspended pay, placing employees (men, women, children) in an even more precarious situation.
In April 2020, European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders announced that corporate justice is on the 2021 legislative agenda. As part of the European Green Deal and COVID-19 European Recovery Package, EU companies will carry mandatory obligations on human rights and environmental due diligence. Many details still need to be ironed out, but Reynders already outlined the scope of the policy.
Companies will be held accountable for human rights abuse and environmental damage that they, their subsidiaries, or partners in the supply chain condone by their operational business practices.
Duty Holders’ Obligations
Inspired by the French Corporate Duty of Vigilance Law – one of the most stringent corporate justice policies to date – large European organizations will have to implement a vigilance plan that includes
- Measures to identify risks of human rights abuse
- Procedures to mitigate those risks
- Measures to prevent violations
- Access to remedies to the victims
Human Rights Policy Enforcement
Per Reynders’ words, “a regulation without sanctions is not a regulation.” As self-regulation has not proven to yield the results one might have expected, public liability becomes a strong message to corporations operating on a large global scale.
Enforcement measures and sanctions are among the many details that EU lawmakers will establish during the remainder of the year.
Impact on Businesses
A new regulation of this scope represents an important investment in human and financial resources, but it is likely to not be a crippling expense for large corporations. Even without an adoption timeline by member states or a compliance timeline, it is safe to say that businesses have a few months and up to a year to get started on their action plan. Smaller entities are not affected by the scope of this proposition, but they may want to consider the implications of this legislation that will come to them from their larger customers.
What if It Doesn’t Pass Into Law?
Trade unions and non-profit organizations have been actively campaigning for human rights policies at the European level for years, rather than left to the discretion of member states. With the support of Germany, which will assume the EU presidency for 6 months in July, the backing of various watch groups and the unions, the proposition seems like a strong possibility.
However, It could happen that it doesn’t materialize or it may take a long time before all interested parties reach an agreement.
Even if the proposed policy doesn’t become law, it is without doubt that other propositions will be brought forth; countries will pass regulations at the national level and NGO’s will keep documenting and denouncing abuse.
In the meantime, many businesses big and small proactively are establishing their own guidelines without waiting for mandatory obligations. From corporate codes of conduct to supply chain assessment and financial support to ethical trade networks, brands are not only protecting their standing but also publicly embracing corporate social responsibility as a business practice in its own right. It’s not the right thing to do, It’s the only thing to do. At Source Intelligence, we use award-winning AI technology to provide affordable and easy human rights solutions for businesses of all sizes.
How Source Intelligence Will Help
The EU’s announcement to propose a human rights legislation (2021 legislative agenda) highlights the necessity to tackle the problem in supply chains until it is eradicated at the source. Along with other countries’ propositions and existing compliance programs, businesses have to take the duty of due diligence a step further.
At Source Intelligence, we make due diligence easy and accessible for businesses of all sizes. Our solution gathers specific information from your supply chain regarding their business practices and allows you to monitor modern-day slavery risk KPI’s. We gather data from all your suppliers on a 13 question survey that satisfies the reporting requirements for the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act (SB-657), the UK Modern Day Slavery Act, FAR 52.222, and any other custom initiatives pertinent to your business. To further improve compliance programs efficiency, our anti-human trafficking solution offers the following features:
- Supply chain specific information
- Multi-tier supplier engagement
- Simplified reporting template on modern-day slavery KPIs
- Whistle-blower services
- Supplier risk assessment
- Risk scoring
- Media Monitoring
Actively become part of the solution by ensuring slavery, child labor, and other human rights violations aren’t supported anywhere in your supply chain.