We Need More than Commitments to End Forced Labor. We Need Action.

A Letter to G7 Trade Ministers

Dear G7 Trade Ministers,

As the leading group of democracies driving forward an ambitious agenda to confront global challenges, the G7 has an opportunity to lead by example in demonstrating that forced and child labor has no place in global markets. We applaud the recent work of G7 Leaders in affirming its commitment to ending forced labor in global supply chains. The G7 Trade Ministers meeting next month in Germany represents another opportunity to collectively reaffirm and demonstrate the G7’s commitment through concrete and decisive action.

Following expressed concern about forced labor in global supply chains by G7 Leaders in Carbis Bay in 2021, Trade Ministers met in September 2021 to begin a discussion about how to address this important human rights issue. We applaud Trade Ministers for the October 2021 statement that there is no room for forced labor in the rules-based multilateral trading system. In that same communication, Trade Ministers also made certain commitments to propel forward anti-forced labor policies and actions. Specifically, Trade Ministers committed to promoting guidance on human rights due diligence, promoting common definitions and guidance to collect and share data and evidence on forced labor, and facilitating compliance with international labor standards and international standards on responsible business conduct in global supply chains. Additionally, Trade Ministers committed to further collaborative work to protect individuals from forced labor, to ensure that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labor and that those who perpetrate forced labor are held accountable.

The upcoming meeting in Neuhardenberg presents an opportunity to move from commitment to action. To accelerate progress toward the goals articulated in October 2021, we call on G7 Trade Ministers to create a more formal, regular technical working group, comprised of States, multi-lateral institutions, representatives from labor and human rights organizations and importantly, individuals with lived experiences of forced or child labor, to share technical expertise, data and evidence and make specific recommendations. This group should be specifically tasked with making recommendations on how G7 states should:

  1. harmonize minimum legal and regulatory standards to address forced and child labor and suggest new legislative frameworks as necessary, including forced labor import bans and mandatory human rights due diligence regimes;
  2. create and strengthen mechanisms for robust information and data sharing;
  3. identify new financial resources to address human trafficking, forced and child labor, including funding for programs aimed at reducing vulnerability and strengthening grievance mechanisms, and provide support for workers in forced labor situations; and
  4. draft specific language for inclusion in all future trade agreements to which a G7 member is a party prohibiting the use of forced and child labor and requiring minimum due diligence and compliance standards.

No one should reap profits off the back of forced or child laborers. Our organizations – representing survivor leaders, human and labor rights advocates, policy experts and researchers – stand ready and willing to fully participate in such a working group to share our expertise as requested and to make suggestions of other relevant participants. Thank you for your consideration and leadership.

Sincerely,

Kristen Abrams
Senior Director, Combatting Human Trafficking, McCain Institute

James Kofi Annan
President, Challenging Heights

Chris Ash
Program Manager, National Survivor Network

Catherine R. Chen
CEO, Polaris

Joanna Ewart-James
Executive Director, Freedom United

Grace Forrest
Founding Director, Walk Free

Yuka Iwatsuki
President, Action Against Child Exploitation

Carolyn Kitto
Director, Be Slavery Free

Leigh LaChapelle
Associate Director of Survivor Advocacy, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking

Shawn MacDonald
CEO, Verité

Jasmine O’Connor OBE
CEO, Anti-Slavery International

Sophie Otiende
CEO, Global Fund to End Modern Slavery

Luke de Pulford
CEO, Arise

Philippe Sion
Managing Director, Forced Labor & Human Trafficking, Humanity United Action

Martina Vandenberg
Founder and President, The Human Trafficking Legal Center

Dan Vexler
Interim CEO, The Freedom Fund

Andrew Wallis OBE
CEO, Unseen UK

Bukeni Waruzi
Executive Director, Free the Slaves

Peter Williams
Principal Advisor, Modern Slavery, International Justice Mission

As the first point of contact for workers, micro-contractors present a much more relevant and effective intervention point than top down efforts

From the Bottom Up: Micro-contractors are Key to Protecting Migrant Workers in India’s Construction Industry

Ramesh* was 15 when he left his home and family in rural Uttarakhand and migrated to Delhi NCR. He had left in search of work and the opportunity to help his family whose financial situation, already precarious, had grown dire when his father became unwell. As a teenager alone in an unfamiliar city, Ramesh became easy prey for unscrupulous brokers eager to exploit his vulnerability. Deceived by a recruiter, he became trapped in a situation of debt bondage, unable to leave his employer until he managed to escape with the support of a local social worker. 

For the next eight years, Ramesh worked as a daily wage laborer on various construction sites. Eventually, he progressed to obtaining work orders for minor components of construction projects and was able to hire a small team of workers. However, despite his near-decade of experience with the work itself, Ramesh was unversed in how to navigate the informal nature of the construction business. He was defrauded on multiple occasions by larger contractors and developers who took advantage of verbal agreements and informal quotations to pay him unfairly, late, or, in some instances, to default on payments entirely. Ramesh faced significant losses, losses that were born not just by Ramesh but by the team that he had hired. He was unable to pay his workers the wages he had promised. Nor could Ramesh raise his grievances with authorities. He relied on word-of-mouth relationships with these larger contractors for references and future work orders. The optimism with which he had viewed the opportunity quickly deflated. Without any real understanding of formal contracting, Ramesh and those whom he employed, were cheated, exploited, and left with no outlet for redress. 

Migrant workers are at high risk of exploitation

Ramesh is one of hundreds of thousands of micro-contractors, situated at the very end of the sprawling and fractured supply chain in India’s construction sector. This sector is one of the fastest-growing in the world and accounts for 9% of India’s GDP. It is the country’s second-largest employer, attracting millions of migrant workers to urban centers each year.

The industry is characterized by a complex and multi-layered value chain that relies heavily on a floating workforce of migrant workers to meet labor demands. The majority of these workers are low-skilled rural migrants and members of socially disadvantaged communities.

Commonly, they depend on daily wages for their livelihoods, making them particularly vulnerable to exploitation. In a large-scale worker voice study with over 17,000 migrant construction workers in 2019-2020, the Global Fund found that approximately 30% of respondents experienced some form of forced labor risks, with nearly 5% experiencing critically severe forced labor conditions. More than 20% reported restrictions on their movement after work shifts, and over 10% reported facing threats to themselves and their families at their workplace. 

Micro-contractors can improve working conditions but face structural constraints

Micro-contractors like Ramesh are the primary employers of this vulnerable migrant population, employing between 5 and 25 unskilled and semi-skilled workers at a time. They represent the node of the construction supply chain that is most directly connected to migrant workers – they are usually the first point of contact for workers at the end of their migration journey, and are responsible for their recruitment, scope of work, working conditions, working hours, and wages.

Their direct influence over worker well-being makes micro-contractors critical stakeholders that need to be engaged and involved in any programming efforts aimed at worker protections and welfare.

Most micro-contractors spend several years as daily wage workers and often belong to the same communities as the migrants they employ. Rising to the role of micro-contractor may seem a step up, but micro-contractors are at the mercy of structural constraints that often leave them with very few options to improve working conditions. Critically, micro-contractors regularly face irregular and delayed payments from their contractors which often limits their ability to pay timely and full wages to workers. As they are only paid when they complete a particular work order, they absorb the majority of risk as it is passed down the supply chain. Since they typically have no access to affordable financing options and often lack financial safety nets, they often take out high-interest loans through informal channels in order to stay afloat, increasing volatility and potentially trapping them in a cycle of debt bondage.

Further, most micro-contractors operate as unregistered and informally managed businesses and lack the necessary know-how to effectively structure and formalize their practices, leaving them, and consequently the workers they employ, vulnerable to exploitation and without access to channels for redress and remediation. This is the situation that Ramesh confronted. Despite his years of experience in the industry and the seeming opportunity to achieve a better future, Ramesh lacked the necessary support systems and business acumen to succeed in his new role. By extension, so too did the workers he had hired.  

Addressing these systemic constraints faced by micro-contractors has the potential to generate very tangible and immediate positive effects on worker welfare.

Given the absence of clear and direct channels between big developers and the workers on construction sites, micro-contractors present a much more relevant and effective intervention point to drive worker benefits than top-down efforts through large industry stakeholders.

Between 2019 and 2021, the Global Fund and our partners worked to test this hypothesis and piloted efforts to train micro-contractors on both ethical labor practices and technical skills for business development (such as digitizing payment transactions, developing accurate quotes for work orders, and formalizing business contracts). The aim was to support the development of non-exploitative employment conditions that were mutually beneficial for workers and contractors. During this period, over 3,000 migrant workers were employed with the 570 micro-contractors trained through the project. 

A large-scale quantitative study run simultaneously to this project found that workers who were employed with trained micro-contractors faced lower forced labor risks than those in the larger study pool who did not receive this intervention. Qualitatively, workers employed by trained micro-contractors expressed a desire to stay on with these employers as they had taken steps to create safe and equitable work environments, including ensuring on-time wage payments, providing safety equipment for risky jobs, and helping meet essential needs such as food, accommodation, and childcare at construction sites. Notably, women working for trained micro-contractors highlighted the non-discriminatory practices employed in the workplace. Unlike their previous experiences in the construction industry, they were now paid separately from their spouses and at an equal rate. The trained micro-contractors internalized the concept that fostering ethical relationships with workers contributes greater value on both sides. They further confirmed that technical and business practice training allowed them to formalize their work agreements and develop more secure contracts with clients to avoid payment defaults, enabling them to pay their workers on time and yielding positive outcomes with worker retention and productivity.

Buoyed by these initial learnings, GFEMS is currently investing in expanded programming in India through our partners Sattva, Labournet, and Kois Invest.

This programming is focused on providing additional cohorts of micro-contractors with access to low-cost working capital loans, channels for stable work orders, and training on ethical labor and business practices. The Global Fund views engagement with micro-contractors as a cornerstone of our approach to eliminating forced labor in the construction industry. We continue to generate evidence to build the “business case” for investing at the micro-contractor level. Trained in business and ethical practices, micro-contractors can better protect themselves and the men and women they hire. They can transform systems of exploitation. 

If you are interested in partnering with the Global Fund, please contact media@gfems.org.

*Ramesh is a composite character based on research findings and discussions with implementing partners. Uttarakhand is a state in Northern India.

Technology is a powerful tool in helping brands end forced labor in their supply chains.

Three Promising Forced Labor Risk Detection Tools

The Global Fund to End Modern Slavery invests in developing a range of tools to help brands, buyers, and suppliers prevent, detect, and remediate forced labor in their operations.

The COVID-19 pandemic has increased workers’ vulnerability to modern slavery across global apparel and manufacturing supply chains. In addition to exacerbating risks to workers, the pandemic has increased consumers’ visibility on where and how the goods they purchase are produced. As economies recover and global production rapidly resumes, we see heightened consumer demand for ethical sourcing.

Governments have joined these consumers in calling on businesses to build back better and eliminate forced labor from their supply chains. Brands and buyers are increasingly challenged to understand and address risks of modern slavery at all levels of their supply chain operations. While companies can ensure that clear policies and supplier codes of conduct are in place, these policies have limited power in a highly opaque supply chain.

We have identified three promising tools that can help brands and buyers assess the risk of forced labor, identify high-risk producers in the supply chain, and provide tangible solutions to remediate violations.

Learn more about them:

Commitments are not enough. It is time for action.

Karen Bradley, MP and GFEMS CEO call for leaders to take action



As we prepare to mark Anti-Slavery Day and the trade ministers of the world’s largest economies arrive in London, we face a stark truth: forced labour is pervasive across our economies and supply chains.

There are an estimated 25 million people in the world who are victims of forced labour exploitation, and evidence suggests this number is rising. These crimes taint tens of billions of pounds worth of everyday goods that make up our diets and daily routines, from coffee and chocolate to mobile phones and the clothes we wear.

The good news is that people are demanding change — and many governments and corporations are responding. Last June, at the G7 summit in Carbis Bay, leaders committed to work together to “protect individuals from forced labour and to ensure that global supply chains are free from the use of forced labour”.

Many nations are passing new laws, ranging from modern slavery acts to mandatory due diligence laws and import bans, to prevent the trade in goods and services made using forced labour. Corporations, too, are making commitments to increase the transparency of their supply chains, and investors are realising that not only is modern slavery morally wrong, it is a material, financial risk to their portfolios.

But commitments are not enough. It is time for action. Time to get practical. That is why we have joined anti-slavery leaders from around the world to write to the G7 trade ministers calling for action to make these commitments a reality.

The trade ministers were tasked by their leaders to “identify areas for strengthened cooperation and collective efforts towards eradicating the use of all forms of forced labour in global supply chains”. We know the problem. We have political commitments to deal with it. And we have proven solutions.

First, G7 counties must work together to agree legal frameworks that are complementary and collaborative. We should harmonise minimum legal and regulatory standards on forced labour.

This should include all members prohibiting the import, export or internal sale of goods and merchandise made or transported wholly or in part by forced labour, as well as mandating that companies operating in their jurisdiction conduct human rights and environmental due diligence in their operations and supply chains, in line with UN guiding principles.

Second, G7 countries should agree that any future trade agreement, trade preference programme or other trade tools must contain provisions specifically prohibiting the use of forced labour. It should also include punishment for violations. To ensure that our lower-income trading partners can be part of the solution, G7 nations should provide support to partners to help achieve these standards and facilitate trade that remains free of forced labour.

Third, the G7 should commit to recognising that any forced labour-related import, export or internal sale prohibition imposed by one member country is applied across all member countries. Such a step would dramatically lower the costs and barriers to effective and timely action. This bold move will require the creation and strengthening of mechanisms for robust information and data-sharing, as well as the development of common criteria and methods based on best practices.

Fourth, G7 nations should use all available instruments, including public procurement policies and their leadership in multilateral institutions, to prevent forced labour in global supply chains, including within the digital economy.

Fifth, the G7 must make additional commitments to assist people who have been victimised by forced labour, whether at home or abroad. These programmes must be designed with the meaningful input of affected workers and survivors and should be based on common principles for assisting those who have been harmed, including for rehabilitation and remediation purposes.

We will never build back better or achieve sustainability on the back of slave labour. We are confident that these five steps, taken together, could make significant strides in reducing forced labour, supporting survivors and ending impunity for traffickers. It is time to translate broad principles into the specific policy and resource commitments to achieve these objectives.

Karen Bradley is co-chairwoman of the all party parliamentary group on human trafficking and modern slavery; Alex Thier is chief executive of the Global Fund to End Modern Slavery

New partnership supports expansion to new sector and new geography.

GFEMS announces new award to fight forced labor in Brazil

The Global Fund to End Modern Slavery (GFEMS) is launching a new partnership with the Program to End Modern Slavery at the United States Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons targeting labor trafficking in the coffee supply chain in Brazil.

Comprehensive Action towards Forced labor Eradication (CAFE) aims to reduce forced labor in Brazil’s coffee industry, the largest in the world. CAFE will focus on the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil’s top coffee producing region. The coffee industry has more cases of forced labor reported than any other industry in the country. Large-scale raids by authorities in recent years demonstrates a widespread problem.

The CAFE partnership seeks to create large-scale change by combining focus on protection, prosecution, and survivor inclusion. GFEMS is proud to team up again with ELEVATE to identify and address labor abuses on coffee farms. And we are excited to work with new partners. In collaboration with Stanford University’s Human Trafficking Data Lab, we will be developing, testing, and rolling out an innovative machine learning-based tool to model trafficking risks, supporting Brazilian authorities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of labor prosecutions. Instituto Trabalho Decente also joins the partnership to guide development of both activity streams and embed the tools developed with local stakeholders. GFEMS will ensure the CAFE partnership is survivor-centered through the formation of a new Expert Advisory Council, anchored by Survivor Advisors.

“We couldn’t be more excited about this exciting new partnership with the US State Department,” said the Fund’s CEO Alex Thier. “Working with Brazilian authorities, survivors, and civil society leaders to disrupt forced labor in the coffee industry is exactly why the Global Fund exists. Bringing together world class partners like Stanford University, ELEVATE, and Instituto Trabalho Decente with Brazilian leaders is the key to changing the systems that perpetuate these crimes and eradicating forced labor from global supply chains.”

The launch of CAFE marks the growth of the successful partnership between the US State Department and GFEMS, building on highly impactful investments across Asia and East Africa. GFEMS is grateful for the continued support and partnership of the State Department, and all of our global partners, in our mission to end modern slavery. You can read more about our innovative programs and research to end commercial sexual exploitation and forced labor in many industries, end impunity for traffickers, and support survivors here.

Questions about this announcement may be sent to media@gfems.org.

This press release was funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.

It’s time to #TransformTrade. Our letter to the G7 Trade Ministers:

G7 Trade Ministers: Fulfilling Commitments to Ending Forced Labour

Dear Ministers, 

We are writing to provide recommendations for how the G7 can build upon the commitments it made in Cornwall, 2021, to address forced labour in global supply chains and in the digital economy. We were pleased to see forced labour highlighted in the Carbis Bay G7 Communiqué as an important issue warranting collective action by G7 countries. 

Forced labour is pervasive across industries and supply chains, and can be found across the globe. There are an estimated 25 million people in the world being exploited in forced labour and human trafficking, and evidence suggests this number could be growing as a result of a number of global challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. Egregious examples of state-sponsored forced labour and horrific human rights abuses within China have been well documented. Traffickers make an estimated $150 billion from this crime, which also is linked to corruption, environmental degradation, discrimination, instability and dangerous, unregulated migration. 

As Trade Ministers, you were tasked in the Carbis Bay G7 Communiqué to “identify areas for strengthened cooperation and collective efforts towards eradicating the use of all forms of forced labour in global supply chains.” Below are five specific recommendations of efforts and commitments G7 countries could make to advance efforts to eliminate forced labour and human trafficking from global supply chains.

  1. G7 members should harmonize minimum legal and regulatory standards to address forced labour across the G7 and adopt new legislative frameworks as necessary. Such harmonization should include all members prohibiting the import, export or internal sale of goods and merchandise made or transported wholly or in part by forced labour, and mandating companies operating in their jurisdiction conduct human rights and environmental due diligence in their operations and supply chains, in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Increased accountability for and partnership with private sector actors to take aggressive steps to eradicate forced labour from within their own supply chains will be essential. 
  2. G7 countries should affirm that any future trade agreement, trade preference program or other trade tools employed by a G7 country must contain provisions specifically prohibiting the use of forced labour and require minimum compliance standards, including due diligence criteria, for the elimination of human trafficking and forced labour which include prohibiting and punishing these acts. G7 nations should also provide support to lower income trading partners to help achieve these standards and facilitate trade free of forced labour. 
  3. G7 members should commit to recognizing any forced labour-related import, export or internal sale prohibition of one G7 country as prohibited in all G7 countries. To support the principle of mutual recognition of forced labour prohibitions, G7 members should commit to creating and strengthening mechanisms for robust information and data sharing as well as the development of common criteria and methods based on best practices. 
  4. Building off commitments made by G7 leaders in Cornwall, 2021, G7 nations should further commit to use domestic means, including public procurement policies, and multilateral institutions to prevent forced labour in global supply chains, including within the digital economy. Members should look to previously agreed upon principles for guidance, such as the right to work and freedom of association found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 
  5. The G7 should commit new financial resources to addressing human trafficking and forced labour, including the commitment of resources to assist people who have been victimized by forced labour or human trafficking in global supply chains. Members should develop specific recommendations on best practices for assisting those who have been harmed, including for rehabilitation and remediation purposes, which should be designed with the meaningful participation of affected workers and survivors. Specific attention should be paid to any harmful and unintended consequences that result from government or private sector actions to address forced labour, including the displacement of people employed by businesses sanctioned for forced labour. 

“Eradicating the use of all forms of forced labour in global supply chains,” will be a significant undertaking, and we believe these five provisions, if implemented, would enable serious progress. It is also important to highlight that while forced labour within global supply chains is a significant issue, it is one part of the larger issues of human trafficking and modern slavery. We strongly encourage you to advocate within your respective governments for all ministries – including trade, development and labour ministries – to play an active role in fighting modern slavery within their respective purviews. 

The G7 can play a critical role on these important issues, and we look forward to working with each of you to realize the goal of ending forced labour. To that end, we’d like to request a meeting to discuss these suggestions and other commitments you may be planning in detail.

Sincerely,

Kristen Abrams 
Senior Director, Combatting Human Trafficking, the McCain Institute for International Leadership at ASU 

James Kofi Annan
Founder and President, Challenging Heights



Ambassador (ret.) Luis C.deBaca 
Senior Fellow in Modern Slavery, Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition, Yale University 

Shawna Bader-Blau 
Executive Director, Solidarity Center 

Anna Canning
Campaign Manager, Fair World Project

Christine Carolan
Executive Officer, ACRATH

Catherine R. Chen 
CEO, Polaris 

Kristi Davidson
CEO, Offspring

Minh Dang 
Executive Director, Survivor Alliance 

Blaise Desbordes 
CEO, Max Havelaar, France 

Luke de Pulford
Director, Arise

Joanna Ewart-James
Executive Director, Freedom United

Nick Grono 
CEO, The Freedom Fund 

Christian Guy 
CEO, Justice and Care 

Peter Hugh Smith
Chief Executive, CCLA Investment Management

Yuka Iwatsuki
President and Co-Founder, Action against Child Exploitation

Fuzz Kitto 
Co-Director, Be Slavery Free 

Melissa Lipset
Acting CEO, Baptist World Aid Australia

Shawn MacDonald
CEO, Verité

Senator Julie Miville-Dechêne 
Co-Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group to End Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking; Senate of Canada

Kathrine Mulhern
CEO, Restitution 


Dr. Nyagoy Nyong
CEO, Fairtrade Global

Jasmine O’Connor OBE 
CEO, Anti-Slavery International 

Philippe Sion 
Managing Director, Forced labour & Human Trafficking, Humanity United Action 

Patrick Quinlan
CEO, Convercent

Jennifer Rosenbaum
Executive Director, Global Labor Justice-International Labor Rights Forum

Charity Ryerson
Executive Director, Corporate Accountability Lab

Akiko Sato
Deputy Secretary General, Human Rights Now

Puvan Selvanathan
CEO & Founder, Bluenumber, Inc

Nina Smith 
CEO, GoodWeave International 

Alex Thier 
CEO, Global Fund to End Modern Slavery 

Kevin Thomas 
CEO, Shareholder Association for Research & Education 

Martina Vanderberg 
President, The Human Trafficking Legal Center 

Andrew Wallis OBE 
CEO, Unseen

Bukeni Waruzi
Executive Director, Free the Slaves

Kerry Weste
President, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights

Pichamon Yeophantong
Senior Lecturer, University of New South Wales

Want to share your support for action against trafficking and modern slavery?

Share this letter and use #TransformTrade on social media.

Questions regarding this letter may be sent to media@gfems.org

To address forced labor, we must engage local contexts, local experts, and local partners.

Instituto Trabalho Decente

Instituto Trabalho Decente (ITD) joins “Comprehensive Action towards Forced Labor Eradication (CAFE),” the Fund’s multifaceted effort to eliminate forced labor in the Brazilian coffee industry, to strongly ground the program in the local context. ITD will use their expertise and connections to engage critical stakeholders, ensure tools are culturally and contextually appropriate, and embed interventions within existing efforts.

About Instituto Trabalho Decente

The Decent Work Institute (ITD in Portuguese) is a civil society organization based in Brasília that implements activities all over the country with the goal of promoting human rights in the world of work, decent work, and sustainable development, focusing on the socioeconomic integration of vulnerable people, groups, and communities. 

Machine-learning has the potential to improve the effectiveness of labor prosecutions and deliver justice.

Stanford Human Trafficking Data Lab

The Stanford Human Trafficking Data Lab joins “Comprehensive Action towards Forced Labor Eradication (CAFE),” the Fund’s multifaceted effort to eliminate forced labor in the Brazilian coffee industry, to increase the number of successful anti-trafficking actions, and study overall project effectiveness. The Lab will work with prosecutors and other anti-trafficking actors in Brazil to develop an AI-driven tool to model trafficking risks and improve resource allocation, thereby increasing the efficiency of enforcement actions and paving the way for new prevention mechanisms.

New Geography, New Sector

Brazil’s coffee industry has more cases of forced labor reported than any other industry in the country. Coordinated Action towards Forced labor Eradication (CAFE) aims to reduce forced labor in Brazil’s coffee industry, and seeks to create large-scale change by combining focus on protection, prosecution, and survivor inclusion.

Read More about CAFE

About Stanford Human Trafficking Data Lab

The Stanford Human Trafficking Data Lab aims to be at the forefront of quantitative scholarship and data-driven approaches to fighting human trafficking. During its formative period, the Lab has focused on (1) developing a human trafficking data repository as a global model for integrating and curating administrative government data sources for new scholarship on trafficking markets, and (2) advancing a set of rigorous multidisciplinary research projects using the data repository to better understand human trafficking markets and the impact of policies focused on them. The goal is for this planning and development phase to serve as a proof-of-concept, demonstrating what can potentially be replicated and scaled.

We create innovative solutions for global brands

Bridging the buyer-supplier gap to root out forced labor in supply chains

Global supply chains are a major perpetrator of modern slavery. With over 16 million victims in the private sector, business involvement is key to sustainable, systems change that eliminates forced labor. In the apparel sector, a lack of transparency between buyers, suppliers, and manufacturers is what often allows modern slavery to go unnoticed.

International apparel brands, particularly those in the ready-made garment (RMG) or “fast fashion” sector, monitor their legally registered Tier 1 suppliers in India. Due to the low pricing and quick turnaround production pressures of the industry, Tier 1 suppliers often sub-contract to unauthorized and unregistered factories that are hidden from brands in order to meet demand. This creates a lack of transparency between buyers (brands) and suppliers, leading to poor monitoring of deeper supply chain operations and allowing forced and child labor to thrive.

To enhance monitoring and make supply chains more visible to buyers, GFEMS and ELEVATE, a business risk and sustainability solutions provider, are creating innovative apparel brand monitoring and remediation systems in India.

ELEVATE has built and tested a predictive analytics tool to detect risks of unauthorized sub-contracting and forced labor practices. The tool uses institutional knowledge, third-party data supply chain data, and new procurement audit data to identify which Tier 1 suppliers are at high risk of using unauthorized contracting to meet their production orders.  Along with identifying high-risk suppliers, ELEVATE has also developed remediation processes for brands, Tier 1 suppliers, and informal/unauthorized factories to collaborate to improve labor practices, ensuring that factories are incentivized to participate and remain transparent.

Despite a slowdown in the apparel industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, ELEVATE has already generated significant brand interest in hosting social compliance audits. To date, the project has:

  • Established partnerships with four key global brands
  • Completed 22 on-site assessments
  • Generated 13 supplier reports on risk of unauthorized sub-contracting.

Five monitored suppliers have indicated varying levels of extreme to medium risk of unauthorized sub-contracting. Two of those suppliers have agreed to deliver a remediation plan, including onsite capacity building with suppliers.

By offering both modern slavery risk identification and effective remediation plans for suppliers who are at risk, the tools developed in this project both allows buyers to make smarter decisions about their suppliers, and provides suppliers with plans to improve their practices and continue operating. Both are essential for generating and maintaining systems level change that eliminates forced labor from supply chains.

This project was funded through a grant made by the U.K Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO). Any opinions in this article do not reflect the opinions of FCDO.

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