Detecting cases of forced labor in supply chains has long been recognized as an urgent challenge in corporate accountability. Already in 2008, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) issued the first publicly-available guidance to help employers assess and identify risks. At Verité, we complemented this in 2011 with the open-source Fair Hiring Toolkit, which provides clear and precise guidance on interviewing workers, screening recruitment agencies and other measures. Since that time, Verité has pioneered new and effective ways to identify forced labor and, more importantly, to help companies and other stakeholders in taking the urgent steps needed to remedy it.
Last month, Verité took another step to advance understanding and good practice on the issue. In partnership with the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking, we convened a first-of-its-kind workshop with social auditors at the United Nations in New York.
The workshop brought together leading representatives of auditing and consulting firms to discuss key challenges, strategies and solutions for the industry; including:
- How can the industry promote greater understanding and capacity among auditors to ensure that forced labor is identified and addressed effectively?
- What steps must be taken to link assessments to follow-up and remedy?
- And, how do auditors better identify and address abuses in recruitment and migration when risks of debt bondage and forced labor begin?
These and other pressing questions were explored in wide-ranging and open dialogue. Constructive and thoughtful answers are needed, not only from the industry itself but from its client companies and other stakeholders. Multi-stakeholder dialogue on due diligence and forced labour is an urgent next step.
Some of these questions are also discussed in a new resource published last month by the World Employment Confederation, the global industry body for recruitment and private employment agencies. The resource examines the business case for ethical recruitment and lays out clear steps to ensure recruitment practices are fair and ethical, and do not contribute to forced labour. WEC emphasizes the need for new operational procedures, management systems, internal accountability and assessments to monitor performance, among other steps.
Taken together, new initiatives like these add weight to the growing movement to eliminate modern slavery. They are also a key sign that ethical recruitment is now accepted as an essential part of this fight. These are encouraging signs at a time when inspiration is sometimes in short supply.
For more information and to support these activities, contact Philip Hunter.