Corporate world moves forward with human rights transparency
By Antonio Pasolini —
Supply chain transparency regarding human rights is becoming an increasingly important CSR issue. After consulting with more than 400 contributors, the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark (CHRB) has published its Pilot Methodology. In November, it will make public its first round of benchmarking corporations on human rights performance, starting with the top 100 companies from the agricultural products, apparel and extractive industries.
KnowThe Chain, which in January published a pilot benchmark on slavery and forced labor, will follow that with the June launch of a second human rights benchmark. It will include 20 companies in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry sector. After the ICT sector results, KnowTheChain will follow with benchmarks of the food, beverage and apparel sectors.
Back in 2010, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council endorsed Professor John Ruggie's Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The principles made corporations aware that transparency on human rights issues, including forced labor, is on the agenda of sustainable investors and human rights advocates.
Consumers are also aware of this issue and are demanding more transparency from the companies they support. A good example is the recent case of the Thai fishing industry. A study by fair labor NGO Verite revealed that fish coming from the Southeast Asia country, which exports $7bn worth of seafood per year, was enmeshed in a cycle of forced labor that affected most importers from Europe and the U.S., causing huge reputational damage to the companies involved.
Slave labor is one of the major human rights issues in today’s world. It is ubiquitous enough to be traced in the supply chain of many companies. 2014 data from the International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 21 million people are currently trapped in those conditions.
As we have previously reported, the issue of forced labor has been gaining prominence with more media coverage and government action as well. The UK has passed its Modern Day Slavery Act while in the U.S. President Obama’s Executive Order 13627, came into effect. The Order strengthens protections against trafficking in persons in federal contracting.
Image credit: KnowTheChain