Building a future without forced labour
February 1, 2021
Determined companies of all sizes and sectors, employer and business membership organizations, and business networks are joining forces to end forced labour.
An estimated 25 million women, men and children are in forced labour, out of which 20.8 million are in the private economy in many different sectors. No country is spared and the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase of forced labour, child labour and discrimination. The task before us is huge and one company cannot address the issue on its own. This is why new forms of collaboration are needed to tackle the root causes of forced labour.
“This is an issue about which there is no dispute. Every sector of society wants to eliminate forced labour. There is no grey space here” declared Laura Chapman Rubbo, Executive Director for Global Public Policy at the Walt Disney Company. “The question is how exactly we get there and how do we achieve progress”, she added when speaking as the Steering Committee Chairperson for the ILO Global Business Network on Forced Labour (ILO GBNFL) during its second annual meeting on the 19th of November 2020.
The ILO GBNFL was created to work collectively on the “how” and to support the efforts of companies and business networks who are taking serious action against forced labour. Launched in June 2018, it now counts 17 active members and partners and, through their respective networks, it can reach over 8,500 organizations, business networks and companies of all sizes.
By bringing together companies of all sizes and sectors from across the globe, the ILO GBNFL is contributing to connecting companies and breaking silos to eradicate forced labour effectively. While the commitment of large companies is instrumental, meaningful progress towards the eradication of forced labour will not be achieved without the involvement of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs, along with micro enterprises, account for approximately 70 per cent of global employment. And yet, SMEs are often not part of the conversation. The ILO GBNFL is working to change this. In 2019, the ILO GBNFL reached over 300 representatives from SMEs in Malaysia to raise awareness and build capacity on forced labour and fair recruitment.
Furthermore, the ILO GBNFL works to provide user-friendly and action oriented data and information to help business understand forced labour and prioritize actions. It has also worked with partners to provide an Interactive Map for Business of Anti-Human Trafficking Organizations.
To make progress towards Sustainable Development Goal Target 8.7 and reach the 25 million people in situations of forced labour, scaling up solutions is key. This is why the ILO GBNFL’s structure operates as a network of network’s to reaching greater scale.
Finally, the ILO GBNFL supports business to engage with other relevant actors, including governments and workers’ organizations to find sustainable solutions to the root causes and structural drivers of forced labour such as poverty, informality, and weak law enforcement. For example, the ILO GBNFL has developed policy briefs for Viet Nam on forced labour and fair recruitment and is supporting policy dialogue in Alliance 8.7 pathfinder countries.
As the ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said at the ILO GBNFL’s recent annual meeting, “Our motivation is a common motivation, and that applies to governments, business and workers, we need to move forward together. It does mean by definition that we have common purpose in what we are trying to achieve.”
This is why eradicating forced labour will not be possible without the commitment of companies and business networks, together with governments and worker organizations.