CGF issues call to action on forced labour

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

The Consumer Goods Forum has called on businesses around the world to “play their part” in the fight against forced labour.

Issued during the 2018 Global Forum on Responsible Business and Recruitment, the call to action was made alongside the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and with the support of the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB).

The CGF, which represents the world’s largest food and beverage brands as well as global retailers, said that the initiative demonstrated the commitment of its members to work towards the eradication of forced labour in the global supply chain.

‘We need to increase the pace of change’

Speaking to FoodNavigator ahead of the announcement, Mars procurement and sustainability chief Barry Parkin said that forced labour is a critical issue for the industry. “We have identified forced labour as one of our biggest challenges. We are prioritising that…. We have driven a set of priority policies through the Consumer Goods Forum”.

In Mars' own supply chain, he said that the company has taken action to address the problem in areas like cocoa sourcing and the fishing industry in Southeast Asia, where he said forced labour is "endemic​".

The CGF has been working to help resolve this global problem since it launched its CEO-approved industry resolution on combating forced labour in 2016.

Commenting on today’s announcement, Mars CEO Grant Reid said that the call to action was about “accelerating”​ action against forced labour.

“Two years ago, The Consumer Goods Forum issued our global resolution to fight forced labour. We remain steadfast in this commitment, and this is a call to action to accelerate the tangible steps we are taking as an industry, matching our commitment with concrete results and improvements in the lives of vulnerable people. We need to increase the pace of change on this critical issue,”​ he said.

CGF principles on forced labour

The CGF has established three key principles on forced labour that it wants businesses to abide by. These are: every worker should have freedom of movement; no worker should pay for a job; and no worker should be indebted or coerced to work.

The CGF said it now wants businesses to “acknowledge the scale of the challenge”​ and “accelerate action”​ to eliminate forced labour, in alignment with the United Nations sustainable development goals and guiding principles on business and human rights.

While the Forum acknowledged that it is the responsibility of government to protect human rights, it argued that businesses have a responsibility to “respect”​ them in their value chains.

Ambassador William Lacy Swing, Director General of IOM, the UN Migration Agency, said: “More and more companies across sectors and industries are coming together to join the fight against forced labour and unethical recruitment, and to establish stronger protections for migrant workers in supply chains. The UN Migration Agency stands ready to support these efforts and to work in partnership to promote practical, measurable improvements in the lives of migrants around the world."

Moving together on a ‘collective journey’

CGF said collaboration is “crucial“​ to accelerating action and driving positive change on this issue. “Committing to work together with industry peers, and welcoming the efforts of institutions, organisations, and coalitions engaged in the fight against forced labour is vital. Businesses are asked to join forces with the ILO, IOM and IHRB, experts in the field of modern slavery, to put an end to these abhorrent crimes once and for all,”​ the organisation said.

Olaf Koch, chairman of German retailer Metro and co-chair of CGF board, concluded: “Forced labour is a complex issue that cannot be solved without cross-sectoral collaboration…We thank the leaders from our industry and global partners, ILO and IOM, for joining us on this collective journey."

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