GFEMS and SAI launch new partnership, targeting modern slavery in India’s apparel sector
December 15, 2020
GFEMS is working with Social Accountability International (SAI), with funding from the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) to disrupt the prevalence of modern slavery in the ready-made garment (RMG) sector in India. As part of the Fund’s Apparel and Manufacturing portfolio, SAI will develop a digital platform to incentivize and support improvements in labor compliance by preferentially linking ethical suppliers with buyers. Ultimately, SAI’s platform will reduce unauthorized subcontracting, a key driver of forced labor.
There are an estimated 12 million workers employed in India’s RMG sector, though that number is likely to be higher due to the uncounted home workers and employees of illegal or unauthorized subcontracting facilities. Factories in India’s RMG sector are known to drive multiple indicators of modern slavery, including mandatory overtime work, unsafe working conditions, and unauthorized subcontracting. These conditions are brought on, in part, by poor understanding of the connection between strong labor practices and the opportunity for factories to be reliable and efficient suppliers.
While these problems are well known, there are few opportunities for buyers to gain full transparency into their supply chains and for suppliers to improve their production planning. Both factors would incentivize and enable better social compliance.
SAI’s project will fill these gaps by developing a digital platform to combine suppliers and buyers and a suite of tools to help both parties improve their labor practices. Aligning with the Fund’s intervention framework, this project addresses the demand for cheap goods and services and aims to transform the corporate environmental norms that allow slavery to persist in the sector.
Leveraging SAI’s existing work in Bangladesh, the project will develop tools and training to improve buyers’ purchasing practices and suppliers’ capacity and production planning. Helping buyers manage their purchasing orders and suppliers plan their production schedules will reduce the risk that suppliers will take on the unrealistic targets that result in unauthorized subcontracting. Unauthorized factories sit outside government regulation and most social audits and therefore present a much higher risk for forced labor violations. SAI’s tool will expand on existing data sets by quantifying the effects of purchasing practices on supplier production capacity—e.g. the effects of unpredictable volumes, last-minute order changes, design changes, long payment periods, etc. This will help buyers and suppliers to better predict supplier capacity and reduce the likelihood of subcontracting.
The project also represents a deepening commitment to the Fund’s work on supply chain management and risk mitigation efforts. GFEMS has also created an award winning Automated Forced Labor Risk Detection tool, which helps buyers to detect risk of forced labor in their supply chain with 84% accuracy. Additionally, GFEMS is funding ELEVATE to develop a predictive model to help brands identify risk of unauthorized subcontracting in their supply chains and take remediation steps.