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EICC Cross-Industry Initiative Aims to Eliminate Forced Labor in Global Supply Chains

CO2 emissions and plastic waste aren’t the only problems plaguing the electronics industry — forced labor and dangerous working conditions are major points of contention for the sector. The Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), a nonprofit coalition of electronics companies dedicated to improving social, environmental and ethical conditions in their global supply chains, is hoping to transform the labor market by eradicating the root causes of forced labor with the launch of the Responsible Labor Initiative (RLI).   

Approximately 21 million people around the globe are currently engaged in forced labor. Supply chains include hundreds of thousands of foreign migrant workers who seek to make better lives for themselves and families, yet many are exploited through force, fraud, debt bondage or other coercion. As a multi-industry, multi-stakeholder initiative, the RLI aims to extend existing standards and programs to other industries, helping ensure that the rights of vulnerable workers in global supply chains are consistently respected and promoted.

“The EICC has been at the forefront of addressing forced labor in global supply chains for many years, however, to accelerate change and drive labor market transformation, we believe that due diligence must be harmonized across multiple industries that share recruitment channels,” said Rob Lederer, Executive Direct of the EICC.

According to the EICC, guiding principles on forced labor are well-established, but solutions tend to be fragmented across industries and geographies and only address specific points in a worker’s journey. Additionally, solutions are often implemented in parallel rather than in conjunction with one another, despite multiple industries sharing recruitment actors and corridors.

The Responsible Labor Initiative will build on EICC standards, programs and partnerships and work in conjunction with complementary solutions to better address issues of exploitation. RLI membership provides companies with a portfolio of services and tools to establish company-level due diligence programs, including supply chain risk assessments, compliance checklists, self-assessments and audits for factories and labor agents and recruitment corridor data and research.

“Addressing the risks vulnerable workers face in the recruitment process requires collective action,” said Ed Marcum, Managing Director of Humanity United. “The Responsible Labor Initiative creates a necessary forum for companies to work together across sectors and act collectively.”

The initiative was formed with the assistance of a multi-stakeholder advisory group comprised of representatives from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the Institute for Human Rights and Business (IHRB), The Fair Hiring Initiative (TFHI), Verité, the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), CH2M, Intel, Walmart and other companies.

“ICCR supports the vision of the RLI, which places the rights and dignity of workers vulnerable to forced labor in global supply chains at the center of the initiative through transforming recruitment and employment practices on the ground,” said David Schilling, Senior Program Director of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility.

At launch the RLI includes industries already engaged in the EICC, such as electronics and automotive and will expand to others to maximize leverage in key sourcing areas.

The launch of the RLI follows the publication of a new report from The Consumer Goods Forum, Business Actions Against Forced Labor, which highlights best practices from companies such as Coca-Cola, Mars, Marks & Spencer and Unilever in tackling the issue of forced labor in global supply chains. The first-ever global Ocean Conference headed by the United Nations that convened earlier this month also marks an important step forward for stamping out forced labor. Fifty major companies, such as Sodexo, Tesco, Thai Union, METRO Wholesale & FoodSpecialist Company and Genova signed the Tuna 2020 Traceability Declaration, a legally binding declaration which requires signatories to at least meet minimum social standards in management practices as recommended by the UN Declaration of Human Rights.

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