Addressing Risks of Forced Labor in Supply Chains

Issues Forced Labor

With increasing attention to forced labor, trafficking, and modern slavery issues throughout supply chains, including new laws and regulations, FLA member companies continue to exercise their long-standing commitment to protecting workers from such violations in their manufacturing facilities, even as the most proactive companies also investigate how to enforce this commitment at deeper levels of the supply chain.

FLA standards on forced labor — incorporated into the FLA program since its inception in 1999 — detail more than a dozen indicators for companies evaluating whether their suppliers or producers are upholding their human rights commitments, and can be useful at any supply chain level. These resources focus on best practices for identifying and eradicating forced labor at the supplier level. It explains the indicators of forced labor as incorporated into the FLA code, provides examples of risks and violations reported by the FLA’s on-the-ground assessors, and offers recommendations of proactive and cooperative steps that brands can take to ensure suppliers do not engage in or tolerate trafficking and forced labor.

Beyond the basic requirement that “workers shall have the right to enter into and to terminate their employment freely,” and the clear prohibitions on “prison labor [and] bonded labor,” FLA standards also require that workers must have reasonable freedom of movement at work, must not be bound to their jobs by debt, and may not be forced to work overtime involuntarily. Companies assessing entire supply chains against these standards — and working to remediate the violations they find — are well adapted to an evolving global environment in which governments, consumers, and civil society, are raising increasing concerns about companies’ connections to human trafficking and modern slavery. The FLA and its members believe no worker should be unable to leave a job at will because of the burden of a heavy recruitment debt to an employer. No migrant worker should have to worry about being able to return home freely because an employer is withholding a passport, other important legal documents, or workers’ wages. And no worker should have to risk termination because they are unable to work involuntary overtime or choose not to.