Business steps for China forced labour increase BBC TV feature 2020

New BBC report on Forced Labour in China supply chains increasing

I lived and worked in China many years, speak Chinese, and interviewed Uyghur workers in forced labour in investigative supplier social audits with leading global brands so I, (Kate Larsen, Founder SupplyESChange) was featured on BBC World TV and BBC radio last week for a new BBC report on increasing forced labour in China supply chains, especially for cotton.

I share the clip to you below here.

Whilst I spoke to a wider audience including all citizens, I discussed a few Aspects Important for Business, and for Investors to expect as ESG action  by business. 

You can read How these Steps are relevant to All Business below the BBC World news clip HERE:

What (any) Business Can Do (further elaboration beyond Fashion):

  1. POLICY:  A clear Human Rights Policy is expected for companies to rank well in the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark rating for ESG Investors (merging in 2021 into the World Benchmarking Alliance Social index assessing 1000s more companies than the first few 100), as well as a Supplier Ethical Trade or Social Compliance policy which clarifies Labour Standards expectations. Many companies draw from the SA8000 code and/or UK Ethical Trading Initiative code which put the ILO Conventions and international human rights conventions into laymens language for operational application. 

  2. RISK ASSESS:  Companies are required under the UK and Australia Modern Slavery Acts, and USA law to be regularly scanning for risk of modern slavery including forced labour in their supply chains. Senior Exec teams and Boards should be gaining regular updates, which in many companies internal Ethical Trade, CSR, or Responsible Sourcing professionals can provide tailored to the company footprint (from insights from work together with Sourcing / Supply Chain / Procurement).

  3. INVESTIGATE: Where risk is highlighted, e.g. some China suppliers may (by the type of deep desk-based investigation we conduct) identified to have hired groups of Uyghur workers (alongside their Han Chinese workers) through the government programmes largely believed to be forced labour. Unannounced onsite investigation (of the type we have managed many times) can verify conditions (and when done well check there is no undeclared outsourcing). 

  4. COLLABORATE: Under the UN Guiding Principles on business and human rights which the OECD guidelines, emerging European business human rights due diligence, and under USA law, companies are encouraged to collaborate with peer buyers in industry initiatives as well as stakeholders of rights affected persons, ie worker representative NGOs, and other entities. Many large multinational companies even collaborate with trade unions on supply chain labour standards as shown by the joining by 200 of the worlds largest apparel companies from the USA, Europe, Japan and more of the Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety with trade unions. For the current China Uyghur forced labour risk issue, I discuss in the video that currently apparel companies are encouraged the join the Call to Action of the campaign, which some of their industry initiatives support, and leading charities such as Anti-Slavery, Unseen, Walkfree, and more support.

  5. REPORT: Companies are expected under the UK and Australia Modern Slavery Acts and similar California Transparency in Supply Chains Act to report on modern slavery risks and their action taken to mitigate and/or remediate these. Pending German, Swiss and EU business human rights due diligence law expects similar, as French law already does. 


Similar Steps across Industries, especially for Raw Materials risk

Whilst I spoke on the BBC about the challenges for the Apparel industry, the same principles apply across many industries.

Many companies now take these steps to engage their supply chains to influence and verify better respect for human rights in the sourcing.

Efforts are made to assess and influence down responsible company supply chains of palm oil, cobalt and conflict minerals, soy, wood (and around deforestation), fishing (even the fish which are feed to shrimps), rubber, tobacco, and even collection of waste paper and plastic for recycling

Companies are increasingly expected to act on Human Rights risks in their global Supply Chains.

What Can You Do?

As a normal citizen, there are things you can do too to use your voice to help end forced labour and human rights abuses of Uyghur and other muslim and turkik minorites in China.  Find out more here

About SupplyESChange

SupplyESChange work to help Companies and Investors understand the Nuance of what taking each of these Steps effectively on the Ground and in Operational contexts looks like. 

Our team have played key roles in Responsible Sourcing in leading multi-national companies, in headquarters and on the field in China, Asia and around the world. We have also worked in initiatives which are leaders in standards setting for supply chain human rights, the S in ESG, and trained Investors and Companies in understanding the standards beyond what ESG ratings might hint at, and how they are applied operational contexts. We also speak up for issues such as the holding of around one million Uyghur people in “re-education” camps in China, many put into forced labour modern slavery.

In 2021 we are launching Online Courses in How To do Responsible Sourcing effectively, and for Investors in ESG to learn what to expect in better ESG performance of companies. 

Ensure you are on our mailing list here to gain updates about the issues, and for exclusive early updates and discounts when our Course launches. 

Thank you for sharing this article, for talking about the issue of Uyghur people in forced labour, and    for influencing or taking action to cause greater respect for Human Rights in your business footprint and investments.

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