Leadership
5 Global Companies Join Forces to Fight Migrant Worker Exploitation, Challenge Others to Do the Same

The Coca-Cola Company, HP Inc., Hewlett Packard Enterprise, IKEA and Unilever today in London launched the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, a collaboration focused on promoting ethical recruitment and combating the exploitation of migrant workers in global supply chains across industries. The five founding companies have committed to the “Employer Pays Principle,” which states that no worker should pay for a job - the costs of recruitment should be borne not by the worker but by the employer.

For many people around the world, the search to earn a better living leads them to find work away from home. The promise of higher wages abroad, however, can in some cases result in exploitation, with many low-skilled workers in particular paying high recruitment fees, incurring large debts, and potentially finding themselves in situations of forced labor.

The Leadership Group will be championing the Employer Pays Principle within their own industries and beyond, calling for similar commitments from other companies to drive positive change across all sectors. The Leadership Group will also work together over the coming months to develop a practical roadmap to underpin this call to action, a valuable tool for companies as they report under the UK Modern Slavery Act, California Transparency in Supply Chains Act and the US Federal Acquisition Regulation.

“The Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment has a bold aim - the eradication of worker fees over the coming decade,” said John Morrison, Executive Director of Institute for Human Rights and Business, the organization convening the Leadership Group. “These five companies are setting an important new business standard and a challenge to other companies to prohibit fee-charging in their operations.”

In late 2014, HP led the charge on this front when it became the first company in the IT industry to require direct employment of foreign migrant workers in its supply chain with the release of the HP Foreign Migrant Worker Standard.

“Business can play a pivotal role in combatting the exploitation of migrant workers, but only if we work collectively to achieve this goal,” said Lara Birkes, Chief Sustainability Officer at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. “The Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment will focus on encouraging broad implementation of the Employer Pays principle across industries.”

“At IKEA we believe that we have an important role to play in helping people to lift themselves out of poverty and to provide a better life for themselves and their children. By joining with others to call for the adoption of the Employer Pays Principle, and by taking action ourselves, we want to contribute to creating positive change, ensuring the ethical recruitment of migrant workers and a brighter future for millions of people globally.” said Steve Howard, Chief Sustainability Officer, IKEA Group.

“Migrant workers are an integral part of global business yet the abusive use of migrant labor is prominent in many sectors. Businesses must come together and drive practices that empower rather than penalise the most vulnerable,” said Marcela Manubens, Global Vice President for Social Impact at Unilever.

Earlier this year, a survey of a cross-section of businesses from clothing, department store, grocery, beverage, home and garden, fresh produce, and the health and personal care sectors, conducted by the Ashridge Centre for Business and Sustainability at Hult International Business School and the Ethical Trading Initiative, revealed that 71 percent of companies believe there is a likelihood of modern slavery occurring at some point within their supply chains. A number of tools have emerged – from NGOs and trade groups such as Sedex, Know the Chain and the Tronie Foundation - to help companies identify forced labor in their supply chains, assess their human rights performance, and benchmark their performance within their industry.

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