The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a group of about 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers and other global industry stakeholders, sent out two calls to action this month. The CGF is rallying the industry to fight forced labor – which affects 21 million people globally – in support of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The CGF also plans to ramp up its implementation of low-carbon refrigeration equipment among its members’ stores.
Forced labor has remained a challenge as supply chains have become more globalized and complex. As the CGF points out, global supply chains “often involve some of the poorest countries in the world with limited institutional capacity for regulation to protect workers’ rights.” The informal sector, large amounts of displaced people, and lack of transparency have led to unique challenges and ongoing human rights abuses, hampering corporate commitments to improving decent working conditions. The palm oil, seafood, and apparel industries have particularly struggled to address the problem.
“Forced labour is a global scourge, yet it appears widely in value chains across different industries. No company can eradicate the problem on its own, but a great deal can be accomplished through collective action among them—including increasing the pressure on governments to play their essential role,” said John Ruggie, a professor at Harvard University and former UN Special Representative for Business and Human Rights. He also said he is “very encouraged” by the CGF’s renewed commitment to the issue.
The CGF’s new Social Resolution commits its members to collaborate on a framework that will enable industry engagement and a “cross-cutting approach that drives implementation.” The initiative hopes to tackle specific issues and geographic area, prevent and address violations, increase harmonization of supply chain standards, engage across sectors and external stakeholders, and share best practices.
“Successfully fighting forced labour requires collective corporate actions which go beyond traditional compliance approaches. At Anti-Slavery International we are encouraged by the CGF resolution as the first industry commitment of its kind, enabling companies to act collaboratively with each other, with civil society and with governments on the unacceptable issue of forced labour,” said Aidan McQuade, Director of Anti-Slavery International.
“Industry leaders can only do so much at individual company level, so such a global collaboration and commitment is crucial to helping to eradicate forced labor from value chains.”
It is expected that the CGF’s framework will build on existing industry-led initiatives and legislation against slavery and trafficking, such as the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, which was passed into law last March and took effect in October. The Act requires the 12,000 companies operating in the UK with a turnover of more than £36 million to publish an annual slavery and human trafficking statement.
Meanwhile, the CGF recently wrapped up its 2010 Board Resolution on Refrigeration, which committed to trial new approaches to refrigeration by 2015, and published its first Refrigeration Booklet with success stories from its members. Its members have installed low-carbon refrigeration systems in over 4,000 supermarkets, 4 million drink and ice cream chillers worldwide, and industrial plants. The booklet includes lessons learned related to low-carbon technology options, deployment costs, energy demands, performance in hotter climates, and the availability of skilled installers and maintenance engineers.
The CGF also released an updated version of its Climate Change Booklet – a collection of 20 examples of how CGF members are reducing food waste and increasing recycling, sustainable sourcing, and energy efficiency. The CGF’s climate change goals include: (1) to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020 through the sustainable sourcing of key commodities; and (2) to begin phasing out hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs) in new refrigeration installations by 2015.
“The CGF has been a leading voice on phasing out harmful HFC refrigerants since 2010. And, although 2015 is now over, we remain committed to helping members amplify the impact of their solutions and in bringing the entire industry forward,” said the Co-Chairs of CGF’s Refrigeration Working Group, Emma Coles, Vice President, Responsible Retailing at Albert Heijn and Royal Ahold, and Andre Fourie, Senior Manager, Environmental Value at SABMiller plc.
“With this in mind, the Board has called on the CGF’s Sustainability team to look forward and discuss how best to drive scale-up beyond 2015, including the possibility of a new resolution.”