The Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment

Shareholder Campaign to Eradicate Forced Labor Yields Multiple Corporate Commitments

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Original Press Release posted by ICCR at http://www.iccr.org/shareholder-campaign-eradicate-forced-labor-yields-multiple-corporate-commitments

Five corporations across high-risk sectors pledge to include “no fees” ethical recruitment provisions in supplier codes of conduct to safeguard migrant workers.

NEW YORK, NY, WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 9th, 2017 – Members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR), a coalition of faith and values investors, today announced breakthroughs with five companies they have been engaging to promote ethical labor recruitment policies throughout their global supply chains.

The labor recruitment process, particularly the recruitment of migrant workers across borders, has proven to be a significant risk factor for forced labor and other workplace human rights violations.  Cross-border job seekers may be charged high fees and asked to surrender travel documents by unethical labor brokers who then entrap them in bonded labor, a form of modern-day slavery.

ICCR’s “No Fees” initiative aims to drive the adoption of company policies which specifically stipulate that employees never pay recruitment fees for jobs, have a clear written contract, and do not lose access to their identity documents.

Changes to supplier codes were announced by Ford, General Motors, Hormel Foods, Marriott Hotels and Michael Kors, all of which committed to adopt public-facing “no fees” recruitment policies throughout their supply chains. The companies represent several sectors considered at high risk for unethical recruitment practices including food/agriculture, hospitality, apparel, and automotive.

Said Mary Beth Gallagher of the Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment, who led the engagements with Ford and GM, “Millions of migrant workers are crossing borders to seek employment and opportunity, yet the existing recruitment system exploits their economic vulnerability and leaves responsible those least able to pay the fees for job seeking. Multinational corporations can have tremendous influence on the issue by setting expectations through their vast supply chains, which is why these policies are so important. Today we applaud Ford, General Motors, Hormel, and others for their leadership in adopting the “no fees” policy and strongly urge all companies to make similar pledges to make the recruitment process more just.” 

ICCR published its Best Practice Guidance on Ethical Recruitment of Migrant Workers in May to serve as a resource for companies to drive the implementation of ethical recruitment policies down through the lowest levels of corporate supply chains. Based on case studies where the implementation challenges of leading brands are examined, the Best Practice Guide is a clear presentation of the risks while providing practical tools for mitigating them. 

Adam Kanzer of Domini Impact Investments, who led the engagement with Michael Kors said, “We are working to uphold a few very basic principles of employment. No worker should ever have to pay for a job. Once they are employed, they must be able to understand the terms of their employment and be free to leave at any time. These are basic principles that most of us take for granted, but for millions of migrant workers around the world, they are very far from the norm. We applaud Michael Kors for adopting strong policies to protect workers in its supply chain from these abuses. We are hopeful that these commitments will help spur a race to the top across sectors. Now, we will be looking to see these policies implemented at all levels of the supply chain.” 

Said Pat Zerega of Mercy Investment Services, and lead with Marriott Hotels, “The responsible investment community considers the management of human rights risks to be material and integral to the long-term financial performance of companies. Due diligence of cross-border recruitment where migrant labor is prevalent and policies that proactively address potential risks make good business sense and further, should be a moral imperative for any company.” 

Said ICCR’s Valentina Gurney who leads the “No Fees” initiative, “Brands are waking up to the fact that controlling labor recruitment at all levels of the supply chain is a corporate responsibility. With these new commitments, we see real momentum building and we congratulate these five companies for stepping out on this important issue. In addition to using the Best Practice Guide, we urge companies to join emerging initiatives such as the Leadership Group for Responsible RecruitmentThe Consumer Goods Forum’s Forced Labor Initiative, and the new Responsible Labor Initiative, a multi-sector, multi-stakeholder initiative by the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition.” 

About the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR)
Celebrating its 46th year, ICCR is the pioneer coalition of shareholder advocates who view the management of their investments as a catalyst for social change. Its 300 member organizations comprise faith communities, socially responsible asset managers, unions, pensions, NGOs and other socially responsible investors with combined assets of over $200 billion. ICCR members engage hundreds of corporations annually in an effort to foster greater corporate accountability. www.iccr.org

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