The celebration of Earth Day this month provides the opportunity to reflect on the overlap between labor rights and the environment. Verité has found a strong correlation between labor abuses and environmental damages. Often, activities that violate environmental regulations take place in areas where the government lacks the capacity to adequately enforce the law. Verité’s research into palm oil and illegal gold mining, for example, has found that the absence of the rule of law at remote worksites can result in permanent ecosystem damage, dangerous working conditions, and risk of forced labor.
Verité’s report on risks of forced labor in artisanal and small scale mining (ASM) in Peru raises challenging questions for companies in industries including jewelry, mining, electronics and banking. Not only does the report show that these risks are very real, but it reveals that ASM gold tainted by human rights abuses makes its way—through corruption, laundering and illegal export—into the hands of global traders, refineries, banks and into our watches and smart phones.