IOFA Talk

Legislation Aims to Address Trafficking in Supply Chains

In addition to the chocolate and make-up industries – as discussed in the April 11th blog post – many other industries make millions, if not billions, of dollars from the production of commodities using forced labor throughout the supply chain.

This June, The Guardian newspaper released an article exposing the modern-day slavery used to procure shrimp for major grocery stores in the U.S. and around the world (Hodal, Kelly & Lawrence, 2014). Shrimp is only one of many products sold cheaply to consumers at the expense of exploited and trafficked laborers. Worldwide the use of labor trafficking or forced labor results in an estimated $51 billion of profits annually (International Labor Organization, 2014).  The United States is the largest importer of goods in the world but, despite this, there is little transparency of the supply chains that major companies use to move their products from production to our shelves.

Thai fishmonger sorts shrimp. Photograph: Barbara Walton/EPA

The process involved in procuring a product includes a complex system of supplies, contractors, and workers. As it stands, this production maze makes it next to impossible for consumers to know if a product they are buying has been touched by human trafficking. While there have been moves from various agencies and even states (notably California) to highlight company supply chain practices, until recently there was no proposed federal legislation that would require companies to be accountable for their supply chain process. 

Representative Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY).  Photograph: Congressional Pictorial Directory

 

On June 11th, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking Act of 2014  (H.R. 4842). Building on key elements of the California Transparency in Supply Chains Act of 2012, this proposed legislation intends to require major companies in the U.S. to disclose annually what steps they are taking to identify and prevent human trafficking, slavery, and child labor in their global supply chains.  Specifically, this legislation would require major companies with annual worldwide global receipts over $100 million to disclose clearly on their company website their processes for identifying and addressing any forced labor in their supply chains.  This would include disclosure of the company’s current polices on auditing suppliers for evidence of forced labor, training about issues related to human trafficking for employees who have direct responsibility for supply chain management, and risk assessment (Wokaty, 2014).  Under this bill,The Department of Labor would also publish on their website a list of the top 100 companies adhering to the supply chain labor standards so businesses with progressive practices would be recognized for their efforts. Unlike current standards, such as the recognition of Fair Trade products, evaluation in this ranking system would be required for all major companies, and would be complied by the Secretary of Labor in consultation with the Secretary of State as well as other Federal and international agencies. 

If passed, this bill would represent a major step forward in the global response to modern slavery. It would allow consumers to research which companies are, or are not, taking steps to address human trafficking. Consumers would be empowered to purchase goods which have been produced without trafficking, and through these decisions they would be able to support businesses with responsible anti-trafficking practices. The bill would allow investors to better understand the risks in investing in certain companies, and enable them to make educated decisions regarding their portfolios. It would further create space for better discourse between companies and advocates about strategies that businesses could implement to identify and eradicate suppliers who use human trafficking and slave labor from their supply chain. 

-Caitlin Gallacher, IOFA ChildRight: NY Intern

For more information about the Business Supply Chain Transparency of Trafficking and Slavery Act, please refer to the following sources:

Fitzpatrick, T. (2014, June 12).  New Legislation Could Help Consumers and Investors Take a Stand Against Slavery.  Retrieved from http://ftsblog.net/2014/06/12/new-legislation-could-help-consumers-and-investors-take-a-stand-against-slavery/ 

Hodal, K., Kelly, C., & Lawrence, F. (2014, June 10).  Revealed: Asian slave labor producing prawns for supermarkets in US, UK. The Guardian.  Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/jun/10/supermarket-prawns-thailand-produced-slave-labour 

International Labor Organization (2014).  Profits and Poverty: The Economics of Forced Labour.  Geneva, Switzerland: International Labor Office.

Lagon, M. (2014, June 27).  Modern slavery will continue if corporations keep passing the buck.  The Guardian.  Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/27/modern-slavery-corporations-business-sense-ethical-supply-chain 

Morosi, M. (2014, June 12).  Maloney targets slavery, human trafficking and child labor with bipartisan supply chain transparency bill.  Retrieved from http://maloney.house.gov/press-release/maloney-targets-slavery-human-trafficking-and-child-labor-bipartisan-supply-chain 

U.S. House. 113th Congress, 2nd Session.  H.R. 4842, Business Supply Chain Transparency on Trafficking and Slavery Act of 2014. Washington, Government Printing Office, 2014. 

Wokaty, J.  (2014, June 12). Investors welcome federal bill calling for corporate disclosures on trafficking and slavery risks.  Retrieved from http://www.iccr.org/investors-welcome-federal-bill-calling-corporate-disclosures-trafficking-and-slavery-risks-0 

For more information about the California Transparency in Supply Act (SB-657) legislation please visit: https://www.knowthechain.org 

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