Migrant Workers

Responsible Recruitment - Turning Principles into Practice

16 June 2017

By Didier Bergeret, Director, Social Sustainability and the Global Social Compliance Programme, The Consumer Goods Forum

Today an estimated 21 million individuals still face conditions of what the United Nations refers to as ‘modern’ forms of slavery. Of that number, 14 million individuals are victims of labour exploitation specifically.

Such violations of fundamental rights are an all too common feature of global supply chains and must be stopped. Thankfully, global attention to these human rights violations is growing and leaders are developing new initiatives to combat forced labour. Industry leaders recognise the role business must play in addressing this worldwide problem.

Forcing an individual to work either through mental or physical coercion, financial control, or restriction of movement is not only illegal but also goes against the common foundations of human rights.

CGF's Principles

The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) is a global association of over 400 retailers, manufacturers and service providers committed to improving business practice and establishing clear global standards.

Following on from the ambitious Social Resolution on Forced Labour announced by the CGF Board of Directors in January 2016, in December 2016, CGF agreed three Priority Industry Principles to counter the most problematic, yet often common, employment practices across the world that may lead to cases of forced labour - especially amongst vulnerable workers. The principles, when applied by industries at large, in collaboration with public and institutional actors, could lead to the changes needed to prevent forced labour in global supply chains.

The principles, when applied by industries at large, in collaboration with public and institutional actors, could lead to the changes needed to prevent forced labour in global supply chains. 

They are as follows:

  • Every worker should have freedom of movement. The ability of workers to move freely should not be inhibited by their employer.
     
  • No worker should pay for a job. Fees and costs associated with recruitment and employment should be paid by the employer.
     
  • No worker should be indebted or coerced to work. Workers should work freely, aware of the terms and conditions of their work and paid regularly as agreed.

Building on these 3 principles, CGF also designed an Action Framework for our industry with the intent to move to the first stages of implementation. 

The framework involves six linked priority actions for 2017, driven through the dedicated Social Sustainability Committee members and working groups. Although voluntary, there is onus on members to internally report on progress in implementing the resolution, which will allow the CGF to measure where best to support members on their journey to tackle forced labour.

Through stakeholder collaboration, awareness raising, tailored research and supplier engagement the following action framework structures how CGF members are focusing their actions in implementing the resolution.  

  1. Implementation in members’ own operations and supply chains: CGF members are asked to embed the three principles in their existing HR, operational & supplier management policies.
     
  2. Collaborating as an industry on priority SE Asian supply chains (Seafood & Palm Oil): Members are asked to help build capacity in the priority supply chains, engaging directly with local governments, NGOs and standard setting bodies.
     
  3. Engaging other industry partners: CGF members should encourage actors such as key social compliance organisations to reflect the three Principles.
     
  4. Advocating externally: Members should help build global awareness and effective support of the Principles and actions.
     
  5. Providing actionable guidance: Effective tools and programmes are needed to deliver best practice and drive uptake of the Principles;
     
  6. Measuring: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and reporting frameworks are critical for the success of industry efforts.
     

From Principles to Practice - The Importance of Responsible Recruitment

The CGF Principle - No worker should pay for a job - clearly reflects the Employer Pays Principle, developed by the IHRB and the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment. Both the CGF and IHRB are now working to ensure that a new business model, whereby recruitment fees are not charged to workers, is adopted throughout global supply chains, surpassing industries and geographies, to change mind-sets and become woven into the fabric of all employer-worker relations.

The CGF and IHRB are working to ensure that a new business model, whereby recruitment fees are not charged to workers, is adopted throughout global supply chains.

These types of private sector initiatives and leadership are an essential piece in today’s actions against forced labour. They not only send a strong message from global business leaders, showcasing their commitment to the cause, but shed light on the more complex and often unknown endemic and systemic issues affecting global labour markets and consequently workers, worldwide.

Decent working conditions are a right for all. Forcing an individual to work either through mental or physical coercion, financial control or restriction of movement is not only illegal but also goes against the common foundations of human rights.

As is the case with any challenge of this magnitude and importance, it is impossible for an individual company to tackle forced labour alone. Governments, civil society and companies all have their vital role to play in ending forced labour. The CGF will continue to work with all actors committed to this goal. Our hope is that these priority principles will be universally adopted by industries and governments.

Mainstreaming our principles through advocacy by individual and collective company actions in supply chains and engagement with government is imperative.

If a “Principle” is “a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour”, then mainstreaming our principles through advocacy by individual and collective company actions in supply chains and engagement with government is imperative. Doing so will build a strong base for creating the positive change we all want to see: a global society free of forced labour.
 

The Annual Leadership Forum on Responsible Recruitment

Members of the Consumer Goods Forum and the IHRB Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, along with other international brands and civil society stakeholders, will be discussing the challenges of recruitment at the inaugural Annual Leadership Forum for Responsible Recruitment taking Place in Berlin on 19 and 20 June.

The Forum is free to attend but pre-registration is necessary. Places for corporate representatives are still available.

For more about the CGF Priority Industry Principles, please contact the CGF Social Sustainability team.

For more about the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, please contact IHRB project manager Neill Wilkins - neill.wilkins [at] ihrb.org

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