As part of the 4th edition of it’s annual conference with stakeholders amfori organized a webinar titled The Business Case Against Forced Labour: How can businesses stay at the forefront on 7 October 2021.
The aim was to engage a range of actors (donors, civil society, business) on what the role and rationale for businesses to confront and tackle forced labour is, and what benefits can accrue for business. Special attention was given to the EU’s new Guidelines on Forced Labour and its provisions to support business in tackling forced labour. In addition the opportunity was provided to share lessons on the progress made in tackling forced labour in Uzbekistan.
In introducing the webinar, Guggi Laryea highlighted amfori’s multi-pronged approach to forced labour involving not only social audits but also capacity building, training stakeholder engagement, and advocacy. He pointed out this approach seemed much in line with the EU Forced Labour Guidelines
Focusing on the EU Guidelines, the European Commission’s Rikard Nordeman, pointed to background to the forced labour guidelines, noting that the EU adopted a legislative proposal on mandatory due diligence to ensure that forced labour does not find a place in the value chains of EU companies. He also shed some light on the recent statement by EC President Ursula von de Leyen to propose a ban on products made by forced labour. According to Mr Norderman this may not necessarily only relate to imports as the EC was also aware of forced labour within the EU.
Jonas Astrup of the ILO highlighted the work from the ILO, World Bank and GIZ in pushing and monitoring reforms in Uzbekistan that have led to a dramatic fall in forced labour. Furthermore, addressing forced labour has provided significant economic opportunities for Uzbekistan as well business opportunities for the private sector. He called on business to support these reforms through investments, trade and training vis-à-vis Uzbekistan.
Marius Lang representing business emphasized that his company – Migros’s - position is based on the amfori BSCI Code of Conduct. Migros does not accept the use of any form of forced labour in its supply chains. If forced labour is detected Migros asks for immediate remediation of the forced labour situation. He further argued that Migros’s approach was not necessarily motivated by a business case but rather an ethical stance.
Key points emerging from the ensuing discussion were that: auditing was not sufficient by itself in addressing forced labour; governments can be motivated to address forced labour by the resulting increased business prospects, and business in some can help sustain reforms against forced labour by supporting with capacity building, advocacy and investments.