On Monday a list was released by KnowTheChain ranking the top 40 global technology companies according to their methods to the address the risk of forced labour within their supply chains. The ranking considered factors including ‘purchasing practices, monitoring and auditing processes’. Within the production of tech goods there are many small components that are often sourced from places aimed at cheap production, in which the workers are vulnerable to exploitative and forced labour conditions. Despite this seeming removed from the end glossy product, supply chain regulation accounts for the network of all actors involved from the production, manufacture and distribution of the product, from which the company will profit.
According to this list, Intel, Hewlett Packard and Apple were the three consecutively highest-ranking companies. The assessment indicated that there is an evident correlation between large company size (and likely CSR budget) and the capacity to address the risks of forced labour within supply chains.
Since the list was initially complied in 2016, there has been progress made by most of the 40 companies. This is likely due to the growing pressure applied by modern slavery compliance legislation, which forces business practices to put their mind to the issue of forced labour. The UK’s Modern Slavery Act was considered the global benchmark solution to ensuring corporate supply chain transparency, and the USA & Australia have followed suit with similar supply chain provisions. Generically, this obliges commercial organisations submit a slavery and trafficking statement.
On top of this greater regulatory pressure, the rise in social media and accountability has led to higher consumer pressure on major technology companies to address the issues of forced labour.
Human trafficking is a widespread network that utilises many forms and modes of transport; from dangerous fishing boats between North Africa and Europe to occurring in plain sight on commercial transport carriers. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has the agenda to address trafficking of persons through the global air transport network, that flew 4 billion people around the world during 2017 alone.
The 74th IATA Annual General Meeting took place last week involving the UNODC, which led to all member airlines unanimously approving commitments to curb human trafficking facilitated by their airlines. The resolutions included:
The sharing of best practice between airlines, with regulations incorporated into the IATA Human Trafficking Guidelines
The training of airline staff to identify and deal with trafficking circumstances without endangering the victim
The cooperation of government authorities, airline staff and all involved in the value chain to create discrete and practical methods of crime reporting.
The outcome of this meeting is a positive step in addressing trafficking through commercial airlines. The limitation, however, is with effective airline policing, traffickers will look to black market and alternative means of transport, which may be significantly more dangerous for the victim than travelling via conventional air transport.
The three major ‘threats’ to child development are poverty, armed conflict and discrimination against girls. The report suggests 1.2 billion children face one of these threats, and an alarming figure of 153 million children are subject to all three of these factors.
What stood out was the geographical distribution of development, as Africa has 27 of the 30 lowest ranked countries, and Niger again the lowest. Development benchmarks including education, health, freedom and safety regressed over the last year in 58 of the 175 countries studied, of which a third were African states. In comparison, 7/10 of the top ranked countries are Western highlighting the division in wealth between the First World and the rest.
On analysis, many of the causes are interlinked and through lack of education, poor child development leads to poor economic prosperity downstream. However, in the rankings of USA (36th), Russia (37th) and China (40th) child prosperity is not relative to their global leadership in GDP, military strength and technological advancement. This signifies that domestic policy and commitment has room to shape the well being of the child population.