Sedex tackles forced labour with new guidance
The Sedex Stakeholder Forum (previously Associate Auditor Group) has released new guidance on how to spot the signs of actual, likely or possible cases of forced labour for both auditors and audit readers.
The guide – co-authored by Sedex’s Marianne Voss and Stronger Together’s David Camp – seeks to tackle the issue of modern slavery and forced labour being under reported at audit.
The new guidance draws on the experience of a range of industry experts brought together as part of the Sedex Associate Auditor Group (now the Sedex Stakeholder Forum). It outlines a list of indicators, which either independently or in various combinations, can suggest where there is a risk of forced labour in a worker’s employment cycle.
The guide highlights the importance of protecting possible victims and advises auditors of the importance of capturing and documenting evidence when they suspect or find forced labour. It can be used as a general reference tool by auditing bodies, ethical sourcing initiatives and brands to help them understand forced labour risks and enhance their existing audit protocols.
“Recent legislation, such as the UK’s Modern Slavery Act, shows a growing recognition of the links between forced labour and the regulation of supply chains, and adds to the rising pressure on companies to address their impacts on human rights in their business and supply chains”, commented Jonathan Ivelaw-Chapman, Sedex CEO. “Nothing can substitute for the critical role of governments and workers’ organisations in ensuring compliance with labour standards, but in places where these mechanisms are not fully developed, private sector compliance initiatives fill an important gap. An effective social audit can make an important contribution to the identification, prevention and eradication of forced labour.”
The guidance follows the recent Sedex Modern Day Slavery briefing, which highlighted research showing that forced labour is a common risk in the supply chain but that audit findings rarely raise it. The briefing provided many reasons why the problem is underreported in audits and why they may not be providing the full story.
“Striving to eradicate forced labour is a priority for socially responsible businesses around the globe”, commented David Camp, Programme Coordinator at Stronger Together and co-author of the new guidance. “The social compliance audit community has a key role to play and must become expert at spotting the signs of labour trafficking and forced labour and reacting appropriately for the protection of victims. This new guidance seeks to move us one step closer to this goal.”
This new guidance is introduced at a critical time for many industries, as the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimates that at least 21 million people worldwide are victims of forced labour. Of these, the ILO finds that 14.2 million (or 68 percent) are victims of forced labour exploitation in economic activities, such as agriculture, construction, domestic work or manufacturing.
The new document, entitled Guidance on Operational Practice & Indicators of Forced Labour is now freely available and can be downloaded here.
For background on the guidance and how companies identify and report where risk of forced labour is found and how these findings can be properly addressed, read our blog by Ieva Vilimaviciute: 5 ways to address modern slavery in supply chains.