Growing Awareness of Labour Exploitation at Waste Recycling Facilities 

8% of MRW survey participants stated they witnessed possible cases of labour exploitation in the last year
8% of MRW survey participants stated they witnessed possible cases of labour exploitation in the last year

New statistics report that over a third of rescued modern slavery victims in the UK have, at some point over the course of their exploitation, been used for labour at waste or recycling processing plants. This work involves long strenuous hours in harsh, dirty environments, ‘picking’ and sorting materials that come into the depot. These cases highlight the recycling industry as one of the increasing target points for human traffickers, where the victims maybe moved between known industries such as car washes and factory work.

Surveys from the Materials Recycling World industry insight have claimed that 8% of those who took part stated they witnessed possible cases of labour exploitation in the last year. Reports suggest eastern European gang members are accompanying the victims posing as ‘friends’ to help interpret where there were language barriers. A case recorded by Hope for Justice recounted that the ‘friend’ would accompany the victim to the bank to set up a bank account, and manipulate the situation into gaining access to the account and take the wages from the worker. As suggested by Neil Wain, International Programme Director at Hope for Justice, such “findings suggest there may still be a limited awareness of the factors that cause and contribute to modern slavery in this sector of the economy, and that more training and understanding would be beneficial.”

The NCA has recorded 1,631 referrals of modern slavery in the first 3 months of 2018. There is growing awareness around the waste industry as a key sector for the skills and labour sets of human trafficking victims. These findings point to the need for tightening of regulation around waste and recycling supply chains, particularly those attached to local government. As a government utility, it is critical that waste collection and treatment systems do not facilitate modern slavery. The private sector waste companies need assessment around the UK’s Modern Slavery legalisation.

For further reporting on by Materials Recycling World, read here. 

Combatting the Vulnerability of Refugees Against Labour Exploitation

Image Credit: Deutsche Welle - Syrian Refugee Working at BMW
Image Credit: Deutsche Welle – Syrian Refugee Working at BMW

In many cases, migrants and refugees make vulnerable targets for exploitation within their host countries as they are often in positions of desperation and vulnerability. In many cases their skill sets or education are not suited to those needed in their place of settlement, forcing them into poor and inappropriate work conditions, hard labour or making them vulnerable to recruitment by traffickers to exploitation.

The UNHCR, OECD and other international agencies are working on an ‘Action Plan’ to overcome the issue of refugee employment. This plan aims to integrate refugees into the labour market by overcoming the issues and creating a strategy to identify the skills that can actively contribute to the economy of the host nation.

Through research and interviews, having secure and safe employment is the top contributor to integration in a new society, which protects them from the potential for labour exploitation. Although each host destination has subjective conditions and labour requirements, the action plan is a holistic and broad framework composed of 10 steps:

  • Action 1 – Navigate the administrative framework
  • Action 2 – Provide employers with sufficient legal certainty
  • Action 3 – Identify and verify refugees’ skills
  • Action 4 – Developing skills for job-readiness
  • Action 5 – Match refugee talent with employers’ needs
  • Action 6 – Provide equal opportunities in recruitment and combat stereotypes
  • Action 7 – Prepare the working environment
  • Action 8 – Enable long-term employability
  • Action 9 – Make the business case for hiring refugees
  • Action 10 – Coordinate actions between all stakeholders

Whether in refuge from conflict, environmental or economic hardship, 65 million people globally have been forcibly displaced from their homes, of which refugees make up 25.5 million. Due to the nature of globalisation, these rates are increasing, along with the frequency and types of labour exploitation of refugees and vulnerable populations.

For the full Action Plan, read here.  

Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility
Child Rights and Corporate Social Responsibility

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been understood and conceptually used since the 1990s, yet only recently gained weight in legal terms. It was designed to hold businesses accountable for the environmental wellbeing and human rights within their production and supply chains that they financially benefit from, and in turn to uphold the rights of the most vulnerable sector of society – children.

The importance of child rights

The interaction between businesses and children is inevitable, as people under 18 years old make up a third of the worlds population. The importance of this interaction, whether as consumers, relations to employees or young workers themselves is critical because childhood is the most fundamental stage of development, where young people are more sensitive both to psychological and physical harm. Furthermore, they are most vulnerable to violence and abuse, deeming defenceless when forced into certain situations either out of desperation or before their own autonomy has developed to protest. If they are exposed to hazardous operations whether directly or indirectly, they are at high risk of mental and physical damage. In extreme yet unfortunately widespread cases of child labour exploitation within supply chains, for domestic work or other forms of illicit labour, the consequences to a child’s wellbeing can be irreversible.

Furthermore, the wellbeing of children is important to the long-term economic growth within communities. 215 million children are engaged in child labour worldwide, and 101 million children are not attending primary school. By being exploited from a young age, the stunt in education that children undergo will ultimately feedback negatively on the future overall productivity rates of businesses within certain economies.

The development of CSR

In the development CSR, rights observers have understood that corporate interests generally outweigh the voluntary demand for an ethical and socially responsible supply chain. There are various examples of CSR that have developed, which compels corporations to comply with legal standards. For example the UK Modern Slavery Act 2015 that that dictates national legal standards, which requires corporations to publish the steps they are taking to ensure their supply chains and free of modern slavery, child labour, human trafficking. This regulation applies both domestically and for international sourcing, in which certain export standards of mandatory social compliance are placed onto developing countries with cheap labour. The California Transparency in Supply Chain Act (CTSCA) 2010 operates similar obligations but working at state level. The Indian Companies Act (2013) compels Indian corporations to spend 2% of their pre-tax profit on CSR.

How Child Rights fit into CSR

Although such legislation is aimed more broadly at achieving supply chain transparency, upholding child rights is a key element of this. Specifically, there is a set of 10 Child Rights and Business Principles as outlined by Save the Children, the UN Global Compact and UNICEF, which give a comprehensive yet non-exhaustive list of CSR requirements in relation to child rights. Corporations must:

  1. Meet their responsibility to respect children’s rights and commit to supporting the human rights of children
  2. Contribute to the elimination of child labour, including in all business activities and business relationships
  3. Provide decent work for young workers, parents and caregivers
  4. Ensure the protection and safety of children in all business activities and facilities
  5. Ensure that products and services are safe, and seek to support children’s rights through them
  6. Use marketing and advertising that respect and support children’s rights
  7. Respect and support children’s rights in relation to the environment and to land acquisition and use
  8. Respect and support children’s rights in security arrangements
  9. Help protect children affected by emergencies
  10. Reinforce community and government efforts to protect and fulfil children’s rights

As this literature points out, the rights of children are no ‘new legal obligation’, instead are innate human rights, which in turn drives CSR. This can be broken down into the Corporate Responsibility to Respect, which applies to the business’s own activities and to its business relationships, linked to its operations, products or services” as well as the Corporate Commitment to Support, which demands voluntary actions that seek to advance human rights, including children’s rights, through core business activities, strategic social investments and philanthropy, advocacy and public policy engagement, and working in partnership and other collective action.”

The focus of CSR towards children aims to eliminate child labour from supply chains, but also must take the nuanced approach which includes protecting the rights of children in their core business strategy, covering all operations, employee rights, marketing, and delivery of products and services.

The aim is for states to be responsible by implementing such CSR legislation to level out the injustices and inequalities of the world’s wealthiest corporations taking advantage of the worlds most poor and vulnerable. Although this works ideologically, the problem comes with implementation. Limitations with CSR studies show that even passive state regulation does not necessarily lead to thorough commitment to supply chains free of human rights abuses and environmental degradation by corporations. Trends show most corporations only apply resource to CSR when receiving pressure from external organisations. Hence, it takes active pressure by rights groups, NGOs and governments to achieve this, indicating the critical role of UNICEF and organisations to lobby against corporate interests. For CSR to be achieved, strict legal requirements and binding commitments must be met with appropriate sanctions as means of compulsion to achieve child rights.

Analysis of Global Revenue Produced by Human Trafficking

The International Labour Organisation estimates human trafficking derives USD 150.2 billion per year, making it one of the most profitable criminal ventures worldwide
The International Labour Organisation estimates human trafficking derives USD 150.2 billion per year, making it one of the most profitable criminal ventures worldwide

In parallel to the transatlantic slave trade as one of the most profitable business ventures in global history, modern slavery in the form of human trafficking follows suit. The International Labour Organisation estimates human trafficking derives USD 150.2 billion per year, making it still one of the most profitable criminal ventures worldwide. Furthermore, in an environment of globalisation it is rapidly increasing in numbers and in typologies. The rise in displacement and movement of people, whether in refuge from conflict zones, economic or environmental migration means there is increased vulnerability to trafficking, and in turn, more revenue produced by trafficking rings.

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) compiled a study Financial Flows From Human Trafficking to address the use of human trafficking as a source of money laundering and terrorist funding. Modern terror networks have indeed taken advantage of this profitable business venture, which creates a complex nexus between trafficking, money laundering and terror financing.

The report divides human trafficking into three categories in which revenue is produced through very unique money laundering systems. Firstly, trafficking for forced labour produces USD 51.2 billion per year, of which USD 43.40 billion is generated by hard labour exploitation, and USD 7.9 billion produced through domestic servitude. Second, trafficking for forced sexual exploitation produces USD 99 billion. Third, organ removal produces between USD 600 million – 1.2 billion, however the report refrains from providing a defined figure because the crime is rarely done in isolation, and therefore overlaps with other crimes which clouds the figures.

The aim of the FATF report is to provide “tangible indicators and best practices for national authorities to improve their effectiveness in combatting money laundering and terrorist financing from human trafficking”. In order to understand these systems appropriately, they provide a set of ‘money laundering indicators’ to be adopted by specialists and authorities working in the human trafficking sector,  to create a systematic form of recording and analysing financial flows from trafficking. The report finds major issues that international actors have in disrupting the nexus between human trafficking, money laundering and terror financing, and outlines resolutions including the need to:

On analysis, the conclusions of this report put significant weight on the need for cooperation between international, state and regional authorities to work together in combatting financial flows from human trafficking. However, there are many challenges and complexities including the corruption of state actors that contribute to the global trafficking systems and obscure the financial figures recorded, including which revenue streams are being used for terror funding. The international institutions such as FATF need to work closely with governments to systematically identify and analyse this. By nature of the black market, accurate figures are impossible to find which inhibits the capacity of national authorities, financial institutions, NGOs and actors to prioritise responses to human trafficking in its various forms. Yet as we further understand the finances of the crime, we are able to respond with effective measures of prevention and resolution.

For the full FAFT report, Financial Flows From Human Trafficking read here.