Efforts to safeguard workers against human rights violations continue to grow, as demand for greater supply chain transparency tightens its grip on the global economic landscape. Following the launch of a new digital mapping initiative in the Bangladeshi garment sector and the unveiling of a groundbreaking traceability platform between Sourcemap and Provenance, five high-profile companies — including Ford and General Motors have pledged to adopt ethical labor recruitment policies throughout their global supply chains.
The labor recruitment process, particularly where it concerns migrant workers across borders, presents a significant risk factor for forced labor and other workplace human rights violations. Cross-border job seekers may be charged high fees and asked to surrender travel documents by unethical labor brokers, which results in their ensnarement in bonded labor, a form of modern-day slavery.
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) — a coalition of faith and values investors — has been engaging with industry leaders to drive the adoption of policies which specifically stipulate that employees never pay recruitment fees for jobs, have a clear written contract and do not lose access to their identity documents.
Ford, General Motors, Hormel Foods, Marriott Hotels and Michael Kors agreed to commit to public-facing “no fees” recruitment policies throughout their supply chains. The companies represent several sectors — including fashion and hospitality — that are considered high risk for unethical recruitment practices
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“Millions of migrant workers are crossing borders to seek employment and opportunity, yet the existing recruitment system exploits their economic vulnerability and leaves responsible those least able to pay the fees for job seeking. Multinational corporations can have tremendous influence on the issue by setting expectations through their vast supply chains, which is why these policies are so important,” said Mary Beth Gallagher, Executive Director of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment. “We applaud Ford, General Motors, Hormel and others for their leadership in adopting the ‘no fees’ policy and strongly urge all companies to make similar pledges to make the recruitment process more just.”
In May, the ICCR published its Best Practice Guidance on Ethical Recruitment of Migrant Workers to serve as a resource for companies to drive the implementation of ethical recruitment policies down through the lowest levels of corporate supply chains. Based on case studies where the implementation challenges of leading brands are examined, the Best Practice Guide provides a clear presentation of the risks, while providing practical tools for mitigating them.
“The responsible investment community considers the management of human rights risks to be material and integral to the long-term financial performance of companies. Due diligence of cross-border recruitment where migrant labor is prevalent and policies that proactively address potential risks make good business sense and further, should be a moral imperative for any company,” said Pat Zerega, Director of Shareholder Advocacy for Mercy Investment Services and ICCR lead with Marriott Hotels.
“Brands are waking up to the fact that controlling labor recruitment at all levels of the supply chain is a corporate responsibility. With these new commitments, we see real momentum building and we congratulate these five companies for stepping out on this important issue," said ICCR’s Valentina Gurney, who leads the “No Fees” initiative. "In addition to using the Best Practice Guide, we urge companies to join emerging initiatives such as the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, The Consumer Goods Forum’s Forced Labor Initiative and the new Responsible Labor Initiative, a multi-sector, multi-stakeholder initiative by the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition."